Direct Care Staff – Music Therapy Has Benefits for Older Adults with Intellectual Disabilities (ID)

Direct Care Staff (DCS) are the “front line” of care for many.  If someone is in a facility or even in a home, the DCS staff is there 24/7 taking care of a variety of needs.  Caregiving is hard work, but many in this field are dedicated to making sure the individuals they are taking care of receive the best of care.  As a therapist seeing clients and patients in a variety of settings, I often turn to the DCS to ask how the client is doing, especially if their expressive language is difficult to understand or the ability to communicate has been compromised.

Researchers Staab and Dvorak interviewed five DCS who work specifically with older adults who have intellectual disabilities.  The purpose of this study was to record and document their perception of the benefits of music therapy for their clients because these DCS participate in music therapy with their client.  Also, the facility where the DCS work acts as a fieldwork placement for music therapy students who attend a local university near the facility.  

Research in this format involves interviewing each participant then looking for common statements or themes that arise out of each participant’s comments.  Several of the statements or themes pointed to specific tasks that the student music therapists should focus on when working with the clients. Of all these themes, the one that caught my eye was the last one, which was “f) DCS find personal enjoyment through connecting with consumers in music therapy experiences” (p. 45).  What a great way for the caregiver and their client to interact! Making music together can be a very special way for individuals, whether they have intellectual disability or not to enjoy spending time together.

  While this type of small study may have limitations due to size, the benefits of caregivers and their charges participating in music therapy together can be advantageous for all.  Not only can it provide a “break” from more mundane tasks for the DCS, their client receives the added pleasure of socializing and emotionally connecting with their caregiver through music.

For more information on music therapy, visit our website at or the American Music Therapy Association’s website at

Stephanie H. Morris, MM, MT-BC

Neurologic Music Therapy Fellow

Central Ohio Music Therapy, LLC

Staab K. W. & Dvorak, A. L. (2019).  Perception of music therapy by direct care staff of older adults with intellectual disabilities.  Music Therapy Perspectives, 37(1), 2019, 45 – 54.