Music therapy improves well-being in people with dementia and caregivers

Music therapy improves well-being in people with dementia and caregivers

A recent study recently published in the journal Alzheimer Disease and Associated Disordersfound that using a specific form of music therapy helped improve social engagement between people with dementia and their caregivers. The intervention also reduced caregiver distress.

Dementia is a broad category of disorders that affect a person’s ability to remember, reason and communicate with others. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes dementia as an umbrella term for various disorders that affect memory, thinking, and decision-making. It is usually progressive and can become more difficult for people to communicate and interact with those around them. Some areas of difficulty include social engagement and communication. This can put a certain level of strain on your relationships with your caregivers.

Music therapy: non-pharmacological intervention

Medications and lifestyle interventions can help individuals with dementia manage their symptoms. Recent research is also focusing on non-pharmacological interventions, such as music therapy, that may benefit people with dementia. Music therapy involves using music to help improve mood and promote well-being.

Music therapist Scott Horowitz, a licensed professional counselor and clinical assistant professor in the College of Nursing and Health Professions at Drexel University in Philadelphia, not involved in the study, explained to MedicalNewsAlly: “Our sensory experiences as human beings are connected with our memories. For people with dementia or other cognitive impairments, these associations often remain even though other elements of their memory are impaired and affected. You can play a song that has meaning to them – and that memory will be triggered.”

Bethany Cook, a clinical psychologist and certified music therapist, also not involved in the study, shared how music therapy benefits people with dementia and their loved ones: “It’s important to note that the best music to use is the music that the person with dementia used to listen to and love when they were 7 to 20-somethings,” he said. MNT.

“These fundamental memories and songs are locked away in deeper vaults on winding mountain roads that dementia doesn’t seem to be able to completely crush. I’ve seen a gentleman not recognize his 65-year-old wife, but when I play her wedding music, this individual turns to her, recognizes her and they dance,” says Bethany.

How music therapy benefits people with dementia and their caregivers

This study examined how music therapy can help both people with dementia and their caregivers. The study recruited individuals with dementia from two memory care facilities. Interventions also involved the active participation of caregivers. The researchers used a 12-week intervention called ‘musical bridges to memory (MBM)’. The intervention included an assessment of music preferences among people with dementia and baseline assessment data such as sociable behaviors and severity of dementia.

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Horowitz explained that taking personal preferences into account is a critical component of music therapy: “The most impactful music is the one preferred by the patient. There’s also a lot of subjectivity in how we experience music. So the one that one person finds relaxing can actually activate another patient – ​​as their memories are linked to what they experienced.”

The intervention included training for caregivers, 45-minute live concerts and breakout sessions – a presentation, discussion or activity that takes place as part of a larger event – ​​at the end. Music therapists encouraged interaction during concerts and facilitated follow-up during breakout sessions. They then performed follow-up assessments using a neuropsychiatric symptoms questionnaire, assessing behaviors, and getting feedback from caregivers.

Among the intervention group, there were better forms of non-verbal sociable behaviors when compared to the control group. For example, participants with dementia demonstrated eye contact with caregivers, interest, focus, and calm. Caregivers also reported decreased levels of stress in relation to their loved ones’ symptoms and also noted that the program helped them connect with these people and improve the quality of their relationships.

Study author and neurologist Borna Bondkarpour, associate professor of neurology at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago, noted the highlights of his findings to MNT: “Our preliminary data show that music can help improve social engagement between a person with dementia and their peers. loved ones. It can also lower stress levels in care partners.”

Study limitations

The study provides evidence that music intervention is useful for both people with dementia and their caregivers. However, it also had several limitations. For example, it could not be a blinded study or have participants randomized. However, having a control group was helpful in evaluating the results. The control group was only from one of the two memory care units, which may have impacted the results.

The study only lasted 12 weeks, so the long-term effects of the intervention were not evaluated. The sample size was quite small, so more data is needed before experts can make generalizations. The study authors note that more specific rating scales for musical bridges to memory may be useful in future research. They also point out that participants with dementia did not show high levels of antisocial behaviors such as aggression at baseline. Finally, the study did not assess the success of the intervention based on the cause of the participants’ dementia.

Still, Bonakdapour was excited about continuing research in this area. He set out the following steps in the research: “We currently have a three-year grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to replicate our results in a larger group of patients. We also need to show some physiological measures to confirm that this effect has biological (and not just psychological) effects on patients and caregivers.”

Based on the overall results, this intervention could benefit both people with dementia and their caregivers, improving well-being outcomes for everyone involved. Music therapy may even become a more central treatment option in the future. Horowitz noted that, as this study shows, music therapy is a really important resource in treating dementia and memory. It should not be seen as an adjunct or secondary, but as essential and primary in the care of the elderly. It is essential and, in a way, offers something that no other treatment can.

Source: Medical News Today

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