Music therapy helps dementia patients, say experts at Chennai hospital

Kauvery Hospital senior consultant – stroke and neurovascular medicine, Dr Sivarajan Thandeswaran, senior consultant neurologist, neurosurgeon and chief neurologist, Dr Prithika Chary, group medical director, Dr Suresh Venkita, consultant psychiatrist, Dr Sujatha Velmurugan, consultant neurologist and neurophysiologist, Dr Bhuvaneshwari Rajendran, and consultant psychiatrist, Dr Yamini Kannappan, at the workshop in Chennai, Wednesday.

Chennai: When professional music therapist Vikram Kannan started singing T M Soundararajan’s Unnai Arindhal, Nee Unnai Arindhal Ulagathil Poradalam, a good number from the crowd joined him with their feet tapping and hands clapping to the rhythm.

The beats of tabla and drums echoed in the hall of Kauvery Hospital Wednesday where dementia patients and their caretakers had gathered for a music therapy workshop.

“Playing familiar songs help patients in bringing back memories associated with it. It also releases oxytocin and dopamine hormones which are also called happiness hormones. Though it is not curative, this therapy aids in treatment for dementia,” said Vikram.

Along with the workshop, the hospital also had a panel discussion for the group to participate in and clear their doubts about dementia.

The most common forms of dementia are Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia. Although the common perception is loss of memory, the panelists emphasised that the condition is also linked to behavioural changes.

Hospital’s consultant psychiatrist, Dr Yamini Kannappan, said, “We learn a lot from the patients and caretakers. For instance, I have had a patient who has the habit of digging up the earth, pick a spider and put it in a box. When the caretaker complained of it, I suggested him to do his routine activity no matter how embarrassing the situation.”

Doctors also suggested that it is better if the condition is detected early and can be prevented by getting engaged in physical and intellectual activities.

A caretaker playing drums at the workshop.

On prevention, hospital’s senior consultant neurologist, neurosurgeon and chief neurologist, Dr Prithika Chary, said, “Performing exercises regularly can have a huge impact on overall well-being.”

However, it should also be noted that the caretakers of such patients, too, require a lot of support.

From that perspective, Geetha Vedaraman, whose father was diagnosed with dementia, narrated how his life took a dramatic turn since then.

“My father was detected with dementia in 2018 and has not been independent since then. It came as a shocker for me as he was a person who was never dependent on anyone. When he was hale and healthy, he did all sorts of activities – name a task, he will do it. To quote one such incident, though he did not have any knowledge in plumbing, he did rainwater harvesting all by himself when the State government mandated it. Now that he has been put in such a situation, it is his caretaker who has been a great support to me and him. Entertainment, attention and interaction are the key factors in taking care of a dementia patient,” said Geetha Vedaraman, a participant.

Hospital’s consultant neurologist and neurophysiologist, Dr Bhuvaneshwari Rajendran, senior consultant – stroke and neurovascular medicine, Dr Sivarajan Thandeswaran, and consultant psychiatrist, Dr Sujatha Velmurugan, group medical director, Dr Suresh Venkita, took part in the panel discussion.

Bhavani Prabhakar