Music is all around us

Music is all around us. Everyone has a different taste in and connection with music. There are over 100 million songs in the world making music not very hard to find, which is an incredibly healthy thing to have amongst ourselves. Music has shown to strengthen learning ability and memory, raise IQ and academic performance, lower stress and improve health, and in general, make you happier. Throughout human history, music has been used to express and affect human emotion. Music not only helps enhance the well-being and intelligence of a person who is healthy but can also better a person who is ill. In 2014, the sixth leading cause of death in the United States was dementia (Nichols). On average, from the first-time symptoms appear, a person with dementia usually can live between four to ten years. The New York times published an article written by Gina Kolata in 2015, about how over a course of five years treating dementia is 80% more expensive than treating a cancer patient. “The average total cost of care for a person with dementia over those five years was $287,038. For a cancer patient it was $173,383. Medicare paid almost the same amount for patients with each of those diseases — close to $100,000 — but dementia patients had many more expenses that were not covered.” (Kolata). A difference between treatments for cancer and dementia patients, is cancer patients can have a future without their disease; whereas, dementia is incurable. Between medication, hospitalization and hospice care, and therapy, living with or being responsible for someone with dementia can amount to an extremely large bill; however, for the past couple of decades a new type of therapy has become more common. This therapy has a high success rate, numerous positive benefits, and is significantly cheaper. This therapy is known as music therapy.
During World War I and World War II, musicians were hired and brought into veteran administration hospitals to play for wounded soldiers. Obvious health benefits were recognized. Soon after in the late 1940’s, music therapy was offered in college as a major. The National Association of Music Therapy merged with the American Association of Music Therapy in 1998 to for the American Music Therapy Association, also known as the AMTA (American Music Therapy Association). The Canadian Association of Music Therapists say, “Music therapy is the skillful use of music and musical elements by an accredited music therapist to promote, maintain, and restore mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Music has nonverbal, creative, structural, and emotional qualities. These are used in the therapeutic relationship to facilitate contact, interaction, self-awareness, learning, self-expression, communication, and personal development.” One of the biggest benefits of music therapy is the lack of limitations. Studies have shown that music therapy can be used on children with autism and the elderly with dementia. Also, the illness, disease, or impairment is not restricted, but can be used for mental health needs, brain injuries, physical and learning disabilities, pain, injuries, and deficits. This is because the power of music cannot be confined. Unlike medication, music can provide service to multiple areas at one time. In general, music lights up the right side of the brain. The right hemisphere controls our creativity; however, music triggers our entire brain. Not only do we hear an overall song, but we hear the tone, lyrics, specific instruments, beats, rhythms and our entire brain is activated. As a result, music can help our overall mood, cognitive, physical, and emotional development, anxiety, stress, pain, and memory, and can aid all of these things at once.
Even though music therapy is used in every community, it is most commonly used in the elderly. It is used to help increase or regulate the amount of physical, emotional, mental, and social development and activity. Dementia is a very complex and very unfortunate disease. There are numerous ways to develop dementia, yet there is no way to prevent or cure it. Worldwide over fifty million people have dementia (World Health Organization). Dementia is a disease that attacks the nerves in the brain, deteriorating the patients mind, impairing a person’s memory, thinking ability, comprehension, calculation, learning capacity, language, and judgement; therefore, leaves the individual unable to live on their own. This disease is heart breaking. Dementia’s most common form is Alzheimer’s Disease. This contributes to over 60% of cases. Other major forms include vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies, and Parkinson’s Disease Dementia. Alzheimer’s Disease is usually closely related to genetics and age; nonetheless, after the age of 85, the likelihood of getting Alzheimer’s increases substantially to about 50% (Alzheimer’s association). Vascular Dementia is the second most common form of dementia. is formed after an individual has a series of small strokes or a massive stroke, leaving the hippocampus (part of the brain that controls our memory) damaged or impaired because of the lack of or the significant decrease of blood flow to the brain. Vascular dementia can’t be cured (John Hopkins Medicine). The third common cause of dementia is dementia with Lewy Bodies, also known as DLB. Lew Bodies are abnormal clumps of protein that form throughout the outer layer of the brain, in the midbrain, and brainstem. Similar Lewy Bodies are found in those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Down Syndrome. “There is neither cure nor specific treatment to arrest the course of the disease.” (Jagust).
With Parkinson’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease dementia, music therapy can be used for treatment in both cases. Like Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s usually begins between the ages of 50-65. People with Parkinson’s disease get this type of dementia about 50% to 80% of the time. On average, the symptoms of dementia develop about 10 years after a person first gets Parkinson’s (2016 ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE 6). Dr. Oliver Sacks stated, “The power of music is very remarkable… One sees Parkinsonian patients unable to walk, but able to dance perfectly well or patients almost unable to talk, who are able to sing perfectly well… I think that music therapy and music therapists are crucial and indispensable in institutions for elderly people and among neurologically disabled patients.” Because Parkinson’s Disease does not always result in dementia, medication, surgery, and a variety of therapies are the most common treatments. This can help a patient with this disease live a stable life; however, once dementia, in all forms, is apparent there, isn’t much that can be done to prevent or decelerate the deterioration of the mind. With Parkinson’s disease, it is known that even when a patient is not able to speak correctly, or has hand tremors, a patient can play a musical instrument or sing with no problem. For the limited amount of positive results possible, music therapy is affordable with little to no side effects, is noninvasive, and has shown more effectiveness compared to other type of therapies. Even though Dementia in general has the same outcome, each cause behind the disease can be treated differently.
Heart Disease, cancer, chronic respiratory disease, accidents, and stroke are the top five leading causes of death in the US. Alzheimer’s disease is the only cause of death in the top 10 that cannot be cured, prevented, or slowed. The total number of people with dementia is projected to reach 82 million in 2030 and 152 in 2050. Despite these already staggering figures, Alzheimer’s is expected to cost an estimated $1.2 trillion (in today’s dollars) in 2050 (Wilkinson). On average, the out-of-pocket cost for a patient with dementia was $61,522 which is more than 80 percent higher than the cost for someone with heart disease or cancer (Kolata); however, music therapy costs almost little to nothing. According to Sounding Joy Music Therapy, Inc. music therapy has been identified as a reimbursable service under benefits for Partial Hospitalization Programs, since 1994. The American Music Therapy Association states, “Falling under the heading of Activity Therapy, the interventions cannot be purely recreational or diversionary in nature and must be individualized and based on goals specified in the treatment plan. The current HCPCS Code for PHP is G0176. The music therapy must be considered an active treatment by meeting the following criteria: Be prescribed by a physician; Be reasonable and necessary for the treatment of the individual’s illness or injury; Be goal directed and based on a documented treatment plan; The goal of treatment cannot be to merely maintain current level of functioning; the individual must exhibit some level of improvement.” Additional sources for reimbursement and financing of music therapy services can include state departments of mental health, state departments of developmental disabilities, state adoption subsidy programs, private auto insurance, employee worker’s compensation, private insurance companies, Medicare, county boards of developmental disabilities, foundations, grants, and private pay. The Florida State University affiliated music therapy say five years’ worth of music therapy for an Alzheimer patient results to be about $17,247, or 70.1% of savings. Studies show that music significantly reduced the symptoms of depression in patients with dementia, and staff reported improved mood and interactions. Music therapy is also effective intervention for agitation and disruptive behavior in patients with dementia, reducing the difficulty of providing care (Gerdner).
The reason is that dementia patients need caregivers to watch them at all times to help with basic activities like eating, dressing and bathing, and provide constant supervision to make sure they do not wander off or harm themselves. It is cost effective and benefits more than just the patient, but those around them; such as, friends, family, and care givers. Besides therapy, medication, and extra help being expensive, there are a handful of other possible side effects. Some of the many possible side effects with medicinal therapy are nausea, increased appetite and weight gain, loss of sexual desire, fatigue and drowsiness, insomnia, blurred vision, dizziness, anxiety, and possible drug addiction. There are no potentially harmful or toxic effects. Music therapists help their patients achieve goals through music, including but not limited to improvement of communication, academic strengths, attention span, and motor skills. They may also assist with behavioral therapy and pain management. Music therapy is noninvasive, it activates multiple areas of the brain that are necessary for positive and successful results, and for a lot of patients, a preferred type of therapy.
Music therapy has shown a remarkable number of positive outcomes, along with no side effects. Music therapist and author Alicia Ann Clair identifies four main benefits for those with late stage dementia: changes in facial expression and tension, increased eye contact, vocal activity, and physical movement (Clair, pp. 81-82). Although music cannot make one with dementia cured, it can make a patient feel more comfortable, less agitated, and even remember or recognize familiar faces such as friends or family. Agitation and confusion among those with dementia is one of the main areas of concern for health care practitioners and care givers. Studies have shown, even when a person cannot remember their spouse of fifty or more years or their own children, patients can remember song lyrics, or a memory linked to the song and for a moment, the patient is able to identify someone they were once close to or acquainted with. Music therapy asses’ emotional well-being, physical health, social functioning, communication abilities, and cognitive skills through musical responses. These responses can consist of easy to identify reactions, such as dancing, facial expression, head nodding, or foot tapping, to smaller responses, like eye movement. Sessions are designed for individuals and groups based on client needs using music improvisation, receptive music listening, song writing, lyric discussion, music and imagery, music performance, and learning through music. All styles of music can be useful in effecting change in a client or patient’s life. Along with all the physical benefits of music therapy, it is also easy on the pockets.