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Music Remembers Me, a guide to music therapy for dementia

“Music is limitless in its capacity to heal,” says Psychologist Dr Catriona Lorang, in a video about a new book about music therapy for people living with dementia.

‘Music Remembers Me’ is an Australian first how-to guide about the transformative effects of music written by Dr Kirsty Beilharz.

Dr Beilharz, a former Young Australian of the Year finalist, is a Visiting Fellow at the University of Edinburg, applying music research in the contexts of restorative and palliative care.

Her new book is the result of a research project involving more than 700 aged care residents, bringing to life their experiences with music and helping families and carers understand why someone who can no longer speak may be able to sing along to a favourite song.

Musical therapy has long been known to help people with dementia, as music can reach parts of the damaged brain and facilitate cognitive function in a way other forms of communication can’t.

A 2015 study by researchers at Angela Ruskin University showed that patients given music therapy showed improvements in both their dementia symptoms and general wellbeing.

Dr Beilharz hopes the book will “fill a gap” by providing information about medical research for the everyday person, ultimately putting power back in the hands of families and carers.

It traces the impact of individually tailored playlists on individuals from the early to the advanced stages of dementia, recording how the therapy provided dignity, reminiscence, and liveliness, and even restored speech.

"Having seen the powerful and immediate effects music can have […] it is clear that this progressive guide is long overdue," says Dr. Lorang.

‘Music Remembers Me’ is published by national dementia and aged care charity HammondCare, with a foreword by acclaimed conductor Richard Gill AO.

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