The use of music has been shown to improve the symptoms of anxiety and depression amongst people living with dementia, according to a new study carried out by researchers at Leiden University Medical Centre. The study analysed data from over 1000 patients in 21 randomised trials and found small but significant improvements in emotional wellbeing which the researchers believed could help to avoid the use of medication with potentially dangerous side-effects.
In response to the study, Dr. Borna Bonakdarpour, assistant Professor of Neurology at Northwestern University’s Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center, called for further research involving larger groups of patients. Bonakdarpour went on to point out that preliminary data already suggested that the use of music could improve the quality of interactions between people with dementia and their carers and family, something you may have observed within your own service.
With the benefits of music in dementia care becoming ever more widely recognised, read on to learn how you can use it to benefit your own service users.
Music and Dementia
Music has been used informally in care settings for many years, but it’s only recently that its therapeutic use in dementia care has been widely recognised. Used with care and as part of a person-centred approach to improving the lives of people living with dementia, it can bring emotional benefits and lift the mood, as well as being fun for all involved!
3 Steps to Enhancing the Lives of People in Your Care with Music
- Personal playlists: As part of each service user’s personal history, try building a list of favourite pieces of music or songs with special memories attached, to create a personal playlist for them to listen to. Music from their youth or that relates to family occasions or memorable holidays can be especially useful in creating a positive mood and can easily be created as a playlist on a CD, MP3 player or music streaming service.
- Live music: As much as recorded music is enjoyable, the opportunity to listen to live music, or even contribute to a performance adds an extra element to the participants’ experience. Most care homes will have visiting musical performers but consider how well these match the needs and preferences of your service users and to what extent they can take part if they wish. Sometimes, the technical ability of the performer is less important than the way they engage with the audience so observe for interactions and involvement as well as for the quality of the music.
- Music therapy: Music therapists can bring a different level of engagement by tailoring their approach to the specific needs or either individuals or small groups of people with dementia. Educated to Masters degree level, the therapists can be particularly useful in reaching people with more advanced dementia or using music to address distressed behaviour.