A study in the Atlas of Science found that the music therapy interventions in nursing homes resulted in fewer symptoms of depression and agitation, with effects over and above any medication effects. Positive changes were observed after only 2 weeks. The authors believe that music therapy should be considered for widespread non-pharmacological treatment in nursing homes for residents diagnosed with dementia. Wandering was not affected by the music therapy.
The study was conducted at 3 Brooklyn nursing homes, with 132 nursing home residents with mid to late stage dementia who were experiencing symptoms of depression, agitation and wandering. Even though the majority of the residents were taking medications to alleviate their symptoms prior to the study, all of the residents who participated in this study still exhibited signs of depression, agitation and wandering. Led by nationally board certified music therapists, in small groups of 4-6 people, residents met several times a week for at least 2 weeks. Interventions included singing and processing memories and associations, playing rhythm instruments, and movement to music.
“Music therapists are skilled not only to find and perform an individual’s favorite piece that triggers memories or pleasurable moments, but also to aid in processing feelings of depressed mood or agitation. Once the music stimulates memories, people with dementia often become more verbal and emotionally expressive. This creates an opportunity for a therapeutic intervention.”