Picking Music for Dementia Patients

As the English playwright William Congreve wrote, music has charms to soothe a savage breast. Music can lift our spirits, recall memories good or bad, help us relax, get us in the mood for a party or calm us down when it’s over. It stands to reason, then, that music can be used to guide the moods of both patients and staff on dementia wards.

The use of music to define the day is increasingly common in long term care. Theme music from popular radio and television shows to start the day, stirring memories and prompting gentle sing-a-longs; pop songs from their salad days to inspire enthusiasm for movement in the form of exercise or spontaneous dancing; sing-a-long songs, clapping or drumming to redirect agitation; and soothing, comfort tunes to wind down for bedtime.

Here are a few suggestions that many seniors currently in their 70’s, 80’s and 90’s may remember:

Top hits from the 30’s

Over the Rainbow – Judy Garland

Minnie the Moocher – Cab Calloway

Summertime – Sidney Bechet

Back in the Saddle Again – Gene Autry

Begin The Beguine – Artie Shaw Orchestra

A Tisket A Tasket – Ella Fitzgerald

Puttin’ On The Ritz – Harry Richman

Pennies From Heaven – Bing Crosby

On The Good Ship Lollipop – Shirley Temple

Wabash Cannonball – Roy Acuff

Alexander’s Ragtime Band – The Boswell Sisters

Goodnight Irene – Leadbelly

Thanks For The Memory – Bob Hope and Shirley Ross

Night and Day – Fred Astaire

Brother Can You Spare A Dime – Rudy Vallee

Sing Sing Sing – Benny Goodman

Tumbling Tumbleweeds – The Sons of the Pioneers

One O’Clock Jump – Count Basie Orchestra

Tea For Two – Art Tatum

Take My Hand Precious Lord – Thomas Dorsey


Top hits from the 40’s

I’ll Never Smile Again – Tommy Dorsey

My Sister and I – Kimmy Dorsey

Chattanooga Choo Choo – Glenn Miller

White Christmas – Bing Crosby

Jingle Jangle Jingle – Kay Kyser

I’ll Be Seeing You – Bing Crosby

Rum and Coca-Cola – The Andrews Sisters

Till The End of Time – Perry Como

Sentimental Journey – Les Brown and Doris Day

Let It Snow – Vaughn Munroe

Prisoner of Love – Perry Como

Five Minutes More – Frank Sinatra

I’m Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover – Art Mooney

You Call Everybody Darlin – Al Trace

Manana – Peggy Lee

Twelfth Street Rag – Pee Wee Hunt

All I Want for Christmas – Spike Jones

Buttons and Bows – Dinah Shore

Some Enchanted Evening – Perry Como

Mule Train – Frankie Laine