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Music program benefits residents with advanced dementia


A trial using music to improve wellbeing, behaviour and psychological symptoms of residents living with dementia has been launched at the Whiddon Group’s Laurieton facility.

The six-month trial aimed at residents with advanced dementia is part of the relationship-based approach to care at the facility, which puts residents and their families at the centre, Whiddon says.

The trial commenced in March. It currently involves approximately ten residents, who listen to a personalised music playlist about three times a week, twice a day, for a up to an hour, depending on individual diagnosis and tolerance.

It uses specialised wireless headphones made from the Music and The Brain Foundation designed for older people living with dementia to optimise the length of time they are able to wear them.

Staff worked with family members and friends to learn each resident’s music preferences from when they were young adults.

The Whiddon Group’s executive general manager Karn Nelson said the personalised playlists have a calming effect on the residents.

“We found that when they’re wearing the headsets and listening to the music, there is an immediate effect,” Ms Nelson told Australian Ageing Agenda.

A calming effect

“They almost immediately show they are much calmer and display signs of pleasure,” she said.

At first, residents were “suspicious” about having headphones on, however once they adjusted to them, they reacted in a positive way, Ms Nelson said.

An increase in social engagement, relaxation, smiling, giggling and reduction in wandering and agitation are among other effects that have been observed.

“When they listen to the music they sit down, they relax, they smile, they start laughing and it will relax them enough so that they can also sit and eat.

“Everyone benefits from the program, however some more than others,” she said.

Karn Nelson

The calming effect has also been shown to last after residents have stopped listening to the music, Ms Nelson said.

“There is about a one to three-hour window where they might become more socially responsive and will be very content,” she said.

For some residents, “we’re sort of seeing a build-up effect, and it might last for the rest of the day and in general, they have a much better day and then sleep better,” Ms Nelson said.

The aim is to be able to slowly increase the number of listening times to three times a day, Ms Nelson said.

The Laurieton facility is reaching the end of its trial, and Whiddon is looking to develop it further and implement it at other facilities.

“The objective was to trial it in one service, see how effective it was, and figure out how we can develop it and integrate it into our care approach, so it becomes a standard part of our care for people living with advanced dementia,” Ms Nelson said.

Find out more about the music-based trial here.

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One Response to Music program benefits residents with advanced dementia

  1. Barb Scott October 11, 2018 at 5:27 am #

    An interesting study – I look forward to reading of how it progresses.
    I play music to my mother occasionally in the same way , from an iPod – the
    only difficulty being that her hearing is challenged. The effect it has on her ability to relax is evident. Her music selection is a bit difficult to meet, (she is 93yrs) , but the effort is worth it.

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