Dance with Me? Study uses music to soothe dementia patients and caregivers

“A person’s musical memories can span decades and be associated with key life experiences and memories,” Eslinger said. “Music can trigger these memories and experiences more automatically than through words since they have been emotionally associated. These types of emotion-based memories are more resistant to Alzheimer’s pathology, which is why music can still arouse them.

Seven residents of a skilled nursing facility (ages 76-92) and their caregivers (ages 53-84) participated in eight music intervention sessions where participants listened to personalized playlists of a duration of approximately 15 minutes. Before and after each session, caregivers answered questions about whether they felt overwhelmed, helpful to the resident, and their perceptions of the resident’s care and condition. During the musical intervention, Bufalini observed the pairs for eye contact, physical touch, smiling, relaxed breathing and posture, and positive verbal communication.

Although the sample size was small, data analysis revealed that caregivers reported feeling significantly less overwhelmed after the study. The researchers also noted that there were still trends in the data that could have clinical implications. Caregivers reported feeling more positive and optimistic and having a better appreciation of their relationship with the resident. The researchers also observed an increase in bonding between the pairs. The study results were published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease Reports.

“Given the considerable challenges of developing drugs for dementia, approaches that engage the senses and connect with something fundamentally human are our best tool to support the quality of life of people with dementia,” said George .

Although the researchers have no immediate plans to expand their study, they hope others can continue to explore the use of music to improve quality of life for caregivers and patients, given the strong neurological rationale. and socio-emotional activity. They noted that the personalized intervention could be done both at home and at the institutional level. Given the low cost of the design, they believe it can be implemented anywhere, including low-resource facilities.

“Personalized music-based interventions could help caregivers provide assistance to their loved one who has memory loss,” Bufalini said. “They can also improve the caregiving experience by reducing caregiver stress and burden.”

Erik Lehman also contributed to this research study. The researchers report no conflicts of interest.

The described project was supported by the Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute through the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences of the National Institutes of Health (grant TR002014) and the Joseph and Mary Caputo Research Award from the Penn State College of Medicine Doctors Kienle Center for Humanistic Medicine. The content is the sole responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the funders.

Read the full study.

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