Türkiye joins five nations using music to treat dementia

Türkiye is taking part in the “Music Interventions for Dementia and Depression in Elderly Care Project” (MIDDEL) with Australia, Germany, England, the Netherlands and Norway to help the elderly connect with their memories.

Professor Burçin Uçaner Çifdalöz from the Musicology Department at Ankara Hacı Bayram Veli University says: “Musical memories are not forgotten until the end of life. Even in progressive dementia, the patient does not forget those musical memories. Music helps you reconnect with the patient.”

Through the European Union joint project supported by the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Türkiye (TÜBİTAK), the aim is to investigate the effectiveness of music and singing therapy across 100 nursing homes in six countries, studying patients who are at least 65 years of age and have dementia and clinical depression.

Within the scope of the project, work is carried out in four nursing homes in the capital Ankara affiliated with the Ministry of Family and Social Services.

While the patients are followed for six months while receiving musical treatment, stress markers on a biological level are measured on a regular basis. The results of the research will be published once the studies have been completed in six countries.

Çifdalöz says the therapy is effective in treating Alzheimer’s disease and that this is the first scientific study in Türkiye that includes music treatment for dementia patients.

“We are trying to improve the mental state of the patients by performing musical interventions with the therapy applied to dementia and depression patients over the age of 65,” said Çifdalöz.

“Musical memories are not forgotten until the end of life. Even in progressive dementia, the patient does not forget those musical memories. Music helps you to communicate with the patient again. The therapy is applied with a form of music associated with the patient’s life. We can determine where they are from, and we can apply treatment accordingly.”

Çifdalöz stated that music therapy must be carried out by a qualified music therapist, warning that interventions by untrained people can cause harm.

Music therapist Yeşim Saltık, who came to Türkiye from the Netherlands to work on the project, pointed out that the therapy aims to change the patient’s current emotional state with music, to help remember memories and people from the past.

“Turning on any music and letting the patient listen to it does not mean therapy. There is a need for a therapeutic bond between the patient and the therapist. Therefore, the type of music to be applied to each patient is different,” she explained.

Music affects a large part of the brain and the instruments played from an early age are very effective in treatment, she said. “When we say Alzheimer’s, it’s not just a disease, it is a state of mind. If a person with Alzheimer’s has a depressive mood, then music changes that person’s mood and provides emotional support. When we apply music therapy on such a patient, they go back to that moment when they used to listen to this music and picture the events and people in their life at that moment, they remember.”

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