Cataract surgery, singing can improve quality of life and cognitive ability of Alzheimer's patients, studies find

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Cataract surgery improves cognition and singing familiar songs improves communication skills in people with dementia, according to recently announced research findings.

The cataract study involved 20 dementia patients who underwent surgery and eight who did not, according to news reports.

Those who had the surgery not only had better vision, but had improved cognition and greater ability to complete activities of daily living than the control group, the investigators at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland found. They also had fewer behavioral symptoms and their caregivers reported less stress.

“All too often people don't see the value of surgery for someone with a progressive health condition, like dementia,” stated Doug Brown, Ph.D., director of research and development at the Alzheimer's Society.

The findings were shared at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Copenhagen.

A separate study found beneficial effects when people with dementia sing familiar songs.

Six people with middle- to late-stage Alzheimer's took part in group music therapy twice a week for a month. The singing led to conversations about the songs and memories linked to the music, as well as comments about the act of singing itself, investigator Ayelet Dassa found. She is pursuing a doctorate at Bar Ilan University in Israel.

While singing can get largely non-verbal Alzheimer's patients talking about the music, they likely still will not be able to engage on other topics, Dassa told Reuters Health. She also cautioned that some songs might trigger bad memories, so caregivers should change songs if the patient exhibits any signs of unease.

Her findings appeared in the Journal of Music Therapy.

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