Radio Station vs. Therapeutic Music: Making the Right Choice for Alzheimer’s Patient Care

Radio Station Vs. Therapeutic Music 

Making the Right Choice for Alzheimer’s Patient Care

By Leanne Flask, Chief Content Officer of Coro Health


You know that in the past, the Alzheimer’s or Dementia patient for whom you care always loved country music.  So, with the best of intentions, you tune the radio to her favorite station. But rather than responding positively to the music, you are surprised and disappointed when she becomes agitated.  What went wrong?  In a word, the selection of music based solely on genre and popularity, such as that available over radio or on CD’s, stands in sharp contrast to the development of a therapeutic music program, designed scientifically with specific outcomes in mind.

Your original impulse was spot on:  music does hold the potential to soothe, heal and inspire.  Both clinical research and qualitative observation reveals that the effective use of music with Alzheimer’s and Dementia patients can contribute to specific desirable outcomes.   Results can include a lessening of agitation and depression.  Other benefits include the reduction of medication, the lessening of pain perception, increased cognitive stimulation, enhanced social interaction support and more.


But there’s a caveat.  As our example illustrates, not all music sources are created equal.  The key is in what goes into the creation of a music program. In brief, the primary goal of the radio station programmer versus that of the team of music therapists, designers and neuroscientists behind therapeutic music could not be further apart. 


The objective of the typical radio station is to reach the broadest possible audience with a popular selection of music.  In most cases, the music is interrupted periodically by news, commentary or advertisements which can influence a mood or stimulate a memory. Even commercial-free entertainment music service programmers use tools such as listener data on radio audiences, record sales and mass market airplay to identify which songs to play, and often, in which order.  The desired outcomes of entertainment music are to drive sales and obtain market saturation.  When a consumer turns on a radio or TV in search of a station or genre, they are listening to a structure of songs based on rating scales attached to each song.   


Therapeutic music, on the other hand, makes its selections with the specific goal of supporting and improving the quality of life for the individual.   Music genres, sub-genres, tempo, texture, and energy are just a few of the musical qualities that are evaluated.  In addition to including individual songs with which the individual is likely to be familiar, designers and therapists also review how the songs fit together to create a therapeutic music experience. 


Why are these considerations important? Here is an example. The song Amazing Grace has a wide variety of versions. If someone suffers from agitation, then a version of the song with less instrumentation and a slower tempo would be selected.  Even if the same version happened to be available on a radio station, it would likely be followed by a disruptive sales pitch or up-tempo song which could easily undo the benefits of the music.  Clearly, this is too important and complex a methodology to be left to chance.


While professionals in the Alzheimer’s field understand the role music can play in enhancing the patients’ quality of life, until recently, accessing therapeutic music on a one-on-one basis has been prohibitively expensive for individual caregivers.  Recently, however, one of Alzheimer’s Speaks sponsors, Coro Health, launched an affordable mHealth mobile app that is revolutionizing the delivery of therapeutic music to individuals with Alzheimer’s and Dementia.   MusicFirst: Alzheimer’s draws on over 1000 hours of music and is delivered over most mobile devices.  Easy-to-use, the Alzheimer’s app targets outcomes for those suffering from Alzheimer’s, dementia and other forms of memory impairment as well as behaviors associated with Sundowning syndrome.

Early adopters of Coro Health’s MusicFirst include over 1000 long-term care communities, hospitals, rehabilitation agencies, home health companies, individual caregivers and third party media distributors, supporting over 100,000 people per day.  


Broadcast music accessible over the radio is great for targeting the masses.  However, Coro Health realizes that your loved one is more than just a face is the crowd. That’s why when we create therapeutic music programs, we base our decisions on what’s best for the individual, not what’s most popular, or will be most attractive to advertisers.


MusicFirst: Alzheimer’s

is available in the Apple iTunes store. You can download and receive the first hour for free and then the app is $4.99 a month.  


For more information: visit or to download the app:

MusicFirst:  Alzheimer’s

For additional resources check out Alzheimer’s Speaks



9 Replies to “Radio Station vs. Therapeutic Music: Making the Right Choice for Alzheimer’s Patient Care”

  1. It is important to note here the differences between “therapeutic music” which is not a standardized term, and may mean many things, and music therapy, which is the use of music by a board-certified music therapist to achieve a range of therapeutic goals within a therapeutic relationship. Music therapy is so effective because a music therapist can tailor live music to the individual’s needs, right in the moment. While recorded music without disruption is so beneficial to people who have dementia, it is not the same thing as music therapy, and should not be used as a replacement or alternative for the therapeutic relationship that exists between a music therapist and a person with dementia. Thanks for bringing attention to the power of music for people who have dementia.

  2. Thank you for this meaningful reminder of the importance of music in the lives of those living with Alzheimer’s. It’s such a joy to see someone who has been lost in herself suddenly light up and connect with a familiar song!

  3. I may be a little late to read this post, but I also like to share that I am a believer of music therapy. Music reaches not only our ears but also our souls. It is a great stimulant to the sleepy nerves of our body. I believe that therapeutic music can impact our patient care especially for those who have Alzheimers.
    Hope it will be utilized or implemented in various long term care facilities or nursing homes soon.
    Thanks for sharing this post!

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