Study: music therapy effective at reducing agitation in people with dementia

Researchers say receptive music therapy is a viable nonpharmacologic option to decreasing agitation and anxiety in people with dementia

A recent study conducted by scientists at the Chinese University of Hong Kong indicates that listening to music is more effective at curbing agitation and anxiety in people with dementia than interactive music therapy or no music therapy.

The study, which was published in the July 2018 issue of JAMDA (the journal of AMDA – the Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine), surveyed 1,418 people living with dementia in 38 trials. According to researchers, while music therapy has long been used as programming for people with dementia, how effective music is at stemming responsive behaviours depends on the type of programming used.

When those surveyed were simply allowed to listen to either their favourite music or classical music, rates of agitation and anxiety decreased. However, the study indicated no significant change in behavioral patterns for people with dementia participating in interactive music programs, where people played instruments or sang along. Likewise, residents receiving the “usual care” had no significant changes in behavioural patterns.

Researchers also praised the benefits of receptive music therapy compared to pharmacological interventions.

“Nonpharmacologic intervention has been suggested as a viable treatment strategy for behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia because there are no apparent adverse effects and, hence, can reduce the excessive use of antipsychotic drugs for behavioural symptoms,” researchers stated.

OMNI Health Care long-term care homes have increasingly been using music therapy to improve the quality of life for residents affected by cognitive impairment.

For instance, the Music and Memory program at Streamway Villa, which was introduced in 2015, uses iPods loaded with residents’ favourite music. It has helped eliminate the use of antipsychotic medications and antidepressants at the Cobourg long-term care home.

It’s these types of results Chinese University of Hong Kong researchers say makes receptive music therapy a viable tool for decreasing agitation and anxiety in people with dementia.

“It is easy and convenient to implement receptive music therapy; therefore, we recommended the use of receptive music therapy in nursing homes, day-care centres, and client homes.”

Click here to read the study published in the July 2018 edition of JAMDA.

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