Researchers at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge said their findings showed that training staff in how music can be beneficial to dementia patients could be the most effective way of managing their symptoms.
Their study took place in two care homes, with a music therapy group in each as well as a control group, which did not participate in music therapy. Both groups consisted of residents who had some form of dementia.
Participants in the intervention group received 1:1 music therapy once a week, in addition to standard care, over a period of five months.
Each session was conducted by a qualified music therapist and filmed, with the recordings later shown to carers working in the homes.
The group showed improvements in their dementia symptoms (measured using neuropsychiatric inventory scores) and wellbeing (measured using Dementia Care Mapping scores), as well as a decline in occupational disruptiveness to staff (the effect on the carer’s work routine and emotional impact).
They found the results were sustained after the trial ended, with measurements taken two months later showing continued improvement.
But the control group showed a decline in all three areas during the course of the trial and two months afterwards.
Carers who were shown the videos of the music therapy sessions were encouraged to use some of the techniques with the residents afterwards, and they also reported beneficial effects, in particular on mood and emotion, as well as communication, memory, agitation, apathy and anxiety.