Osman, S.E. et al. (2016) Dementia. 15(6) pp. 1326-1339
Dementia has detrimental effects on cognitive, psychological and behavioural functioning, as well as significant impact on those who provide care. There is a need to find suitable psychosocial interventions to help manage the condition, enhance well-being, and to provide support for caregivers. This study explored the impact of Singing for the Brain™, an intervention based on group singing activities developed by The Alzheimer’s Society for people with dementia and their carers. This qualitative study used semi-structured interviews with people with dementia and their carers. Ten interviews involving 20 participants were analysed thematically. Social inclusiveness and improvements in relationships, memory and mood were found to be especially important to participants. As well as enjoying the sessions, participants found that attending Singing for the Brain™ helped in accepting and coping with dementia.
By Pugh, R. for the Guardian Social Care Network. Published 29th February 2016.
Sheer embarrassment was dementia care worker Lynda Kelly’s overwhelming emotion the first time she sat in on a Manchester Camerata orchestra music therapy session at the residential home where she works; but the lasting change she saw in the residents in response to the musicians was so great that she is now running weekly improvisation sessions at the home.
Kelly, the activities coordinator for Acacia Lodge – a 60-bed residential home in New Moston, Manchester – reports seeing a mute female resident with advanced Alzheimer’s sing Swing Low, Sweet Chariot at top volume with all the words in one of the first Camerata sessions. Two other former non-speakers now communicate with staff as though they had never stopped and many more display greater confidence, increased activity levels and more cooperation with their carers.
“The first music session I went to, I did not know where to put myself with embarrassment – I was not used to seeing people sing and express themselves like that,” says Kelly, who has since then been involved in three music and dementia projects with the chamber orchestra over the past three years, including a 10-week course for Acacia Lodge residents. “But the impact has been amazing and I realised within two weeks that music was getting to them in a completely different way.”
Manchester Camerata orchestra’s Music in Mind (MIM) projects, which involved 7,200 people in care homes and community projects across Greater Manchester last year, have had such dramatic effects on participants that academics at Manchester and Lancaster universities are backing a research student to create the world’s first in-the-moment, multi-sensory assessment tool to quantify that effect.
Depression, agitation, and wandering are common behaviors associated with dementia and frequently observed among nursing home residents. Even with pharmacological treatment, behaviors often persist, hindering quality of life for elders, their family, and paid caregivers.
This study examined the use of music therapy for treatment of these symptoms among 132 people with moderate to severe dementia in nursing homes. Participants were evaluated for depressive symptoms, agitation, and wandering to determine their predominate behavior. There were two assessments, two weeks apart, prior to intervention, followed by a two-week intervention, and two follow-up assessments, also two weeks apart. A repeated measures ANOVA determined that after two weeks of music therapy, symptoms of depression and agitation were significantly reduced; there was no change for wandering.
Multivariate analyses confirmed a relationship between music therapy and change in neuropsychiatric symptoms associated with dementia. Results suggest widespread use of music therapy in long-term care settings may be effective in reducing symptoms of depression and agitation.
Does current music therapy practice address the goals encapsulated in the UK Department of Health document, Living well with dementia: a national dementia strategy (the Dementia Strategy) published in 2009? A survey elicited the views of clients, family members, music therapists, care home staff and care home managers, about this question by focusing on the relationship between music therapy and the 17 objectives outlined in the Dementia Strategy.
The results showed that the objectives that are related to direct activity of the music therapists (such as care and understanding of the condition) were seen as most fulfilled by music therapy, while those regarding practicalities (such as living within the community) were seen as least fulfilled. Although the responses from the four groups of participants were similar, differences for some questions suggest that people’s direct experience of music therapy influences their views.
This study suggests that many aspects of the Dementia Strategy are already seen as being achieved. The findings suggest that developments of both music therapy practices and government strategies on dementia care may benefit from being mutually informed.