Quality of life has become more and more of a focus in care of individuals with Dementia. Many articles or studies have shown that music therapy can help quality of life for many people, but how exactly does it help individuals with varying levels of Dementia?
In the study “Effect of Group Music Therapy on Quality of Life, Affect, and Participation in People with Varying Levels of Dementia”, researchers attempted to find out why music therapy is effective for Dementia.
This study included sixteen individuals living in nursing homes long term. All individuals had varied levels of family support and progression of their Dementia was varied. Participants were given a quality of life questionnaire before and after the study that asked questions about emotional well-being, interpersonal relations, material well-being, personal development, physical well-being, self-determination, social inclusion, and rights. Music Therapy sessions occurred weekly for 45-60 minutes for twelve weeks. Music therapy groups focused on stimulation cognitive function, social interaction, and some motor skills. Participant musical preferences were used to choose music for the sessions. All sessions followed the same sequence:
- Opening song: using participants names, lyrics about time (to orient), and singing scales with the keyboard to help orient the participants.
- Main activity: This activity varied, but included singing, listening to music, playing musical instruments, composition/improvisation, and movement to music. Groups with mild to moderate Dementia included more improvisation, singing preferred songs with discussion, and movement. Groups with more advanced dementia included more active music participation like singing, instrument improvisation, and movement to music with less focus on verbal skills.
- Closing Song: Goodbye song that gave clients a chance to suggest songs they would like for the next session.
This study only found one statistically significant difference in the results. The emotional well-being score increased from pre-test to post-test. The researchers believe a study with more participants (especially to expand and even out the number of participants with varied levels of dementia) would yield more balanced results. This study is important because it highlights some of the difficulties that music therapists have when conducting studies (small participant pool per population, hard to capture qualitative and quantitative results in a study) and it shows that music therapy has a positive effect on emotional well being for individuals with varied levels of Dementia.
Sole, C., Mercadal-Brotons, M., Galati, A., & De Castro, M. (2014). Effects of Group Music Therapy on Quality of Life, Affect, and Participation in People with Varying Levels of Dementia . Journal of Music Therapy, 51(1), 103-125.
By Jessica S. Fletcher, MM, MT-BC