Tim Brunson DCH

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The effects of music therapy for older people with dementia



The aim of this literature review is to explore how music therapy influences the behaviour of older people with dementia. BACKGROUND: Music therapy is often informally used in residential care units to enhance communication, emotional, cognitive and behavioural skills in elderly patients diagnosed with dementia both nationally and internationally. However, in Ireland the benefits of music therapy have not been fully recognized. Many studies have been carried out to establish the effectiveness of music therapy on the behaviour of older people with dementia with positive findings. Music therapy should be welcomed into care of the elderly settings in Ireland and elsewhere; however, more research is required to validate the effects of this therapy as a holistic tool to build altruistic connections between carers and clients. METHOD: A comprehensive review of nursing literature using the online databases CINAHL, PsycINFO and MEDLINE were carried out. The search was limited to articles in the English language and peer-reviewed journals dating 2003-2009. RESULTS: Thirteen studies were reviewed and the majority of these studies reported that music therapy influenced the behaviour of older people with dementia in a positive way by reducing levels of agitation. The research further identified a positive increase in participants' mood and socialization skills, with carers having a significant role to play in the use of music therapy in care of the elderly nursing. However, methodological limitations were apparent throughout each of the studies reviewed. RECOMMENDATIONS: With reference to clinical practice, the authors recommend the undertaking of further research to explore the effects of music therapy on the behaviour and wellbeing of older people with dementia.

Br J Nurs. 2010 Jan 28-Feb 10;19(2):108-13. Wall M, Duffy A. St Vincent's Hospital, Athy, Co Kildare, Ireland.

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