Updated: Nov 2
In the realm of dementia care, the therapeutic potential of music has gained substantial attention. Scientific studies have increasingly demonstrated that soothing music can play a vital role in alleviating agitation among individuals living with dementia. This article delves into the research surrounding the use of pre-recorded relaxing music as a tool to manage symptoms of dementia, highlighting its potential benefits and limitations.
Effect of soothing music
In the pursuit of creating a more serene environment for individuals with severe cognitive impairment, researchers have explored the impact of soothing music. Studies conducted by Goddaer and Abraham (1994) revealed that incorporating calming music during meals in long-term care facilities contributed to a decrease in overall agitated behaviours. The reduction encompassed both physically non-aggressive and verbally nervous behaviours, pointing to the potential of music to transform the atmosphere.
Similarly, Tabloski et al. (1995) conducted an intriguing study involving nursing home residents with dementia. By introducing specially selected calming music, they observed a notable decrease in agitation levels during and after the musical sessions. This research underscored the therapeutic value of music in mitigating the symptoms of dementia.
Personalized Melodies for Alzheimer's Relief
While classical relaxation music has shown promise, Gerdner (2000, 2009) proposed a more personalized approach. Individualized music, tailored to the preferences of patients with Alzheimer's, yielded more significant improvements in symptom management than conventional calming music. Personalized music suggests that catering to individual tastes and memories might enhance the therapeutic impact of music.
Elliot et al. (2011) delved into the specific characteristics of relaxing music. They highlighted the significance of a gentle, constant rhythm in a major key. The tempo, measured between 80-100 beats per minute, emerged as a pivotal element in reducing agitated behaviours among dementia patients. Repetitions in music, rather than tonality, were crucial in achieving relaxation.
Musical Instruments and Relaxation.
Instruments play a crucial role in enhancing the soothing effect of music. Ziv and Dolev (2013) noted that piano and string instruments possess a more calming influence compared to percussion or brass instrumentation. Furthermore, vocal elements in music were shown to evoke memories and emotional responses, thus deepening the impact of the auditory experience (Remington, 2002).
Personalized Playlists and Beyond
Recent studies have unveiled the potential of personalized music playlists to influence dementia symptoms (Garrido et al., 2017). Even without a music therapist, tailored playlists demonstrated positive outcomes. However, the complexities of different types of dementia and individual responses necessitate further exploration.
Hernandez-Ruiz et al. (2018) uncovered the subjectivity inherent in the perception of relaxing music. Their findings highlighted the diverse ways in which individuals interpret and respond to auditory stimuli. Despite contrasting results, studies in nursing homes continued to champion the effectiveness of relaxing music (Remington, 2002; Hicks-Moore, 2008).
The Prospects of Pre-Recorded Relaxing Music
Building upon this body of research, the application of pre-recorded relaxed music emerges as a viable tool in the arsenal for managing dementia symptoms. While acknowledging the variances in individual responses and preferences, the potential benefits of music therapy cannot be dismissed. Pre-recorded music offers a convenient and consistent means of delivering therapeutic auditory experiences.
As we delve deeper into the realm of dementia care, the role of music therapy becomes increasingly evident. Scientific studies have illuminated the potential of soothing music in mitigating agitation and improving the well-being of individuals with dementia. While there may be nuances and individual variations, the use of pre-recorded relaxing music stands as a promising approach in the multifaceted journey of dementia treatment. Continued research and exploration are essential to harness the power of music in this context fully.
ELLIOT, D., POLMAN, R. AND MCGREGOR, R. (2011). Relaxing music for anxiety control. Journal of Music Therapy, 48: 264288.
GARRIDO, S., DUNNE, L., CHANG, E., PERZ, J., STEVENS, C. J. & HAERTSCH, M. 2017. The use of music playlists for people with dementia: A critical synthesis. Journal of Alzheimer's disease, 60, 1129-1142.
GERDNER, L.A. (2000) ‘Effects of individualized versus classical “relaxation” music on the frequency of agitation in elderly persons with alzheimer’s disease and related disorders’, International Psychogeriatrics, 12(1), pp. 49–65. doi:10.1017/s1041610200006190.
GODDAER, J. AND ABRAHAM, I.L. (1994). Effects of relaxing music on agitation during meals among nursing home residents with severe cognitive impairment. Archives of Psychiatric Nursing, 8: 150–158.
HERNANDEZ-RUIZ, E. ET AL. (2018) ‘What makes music relaxing? an investigation into musical elements’, Psychology of Music, 48(3), pp. 327–343. doi:10.1177/0305735618798027.
HICKS-MOORE, S. AND ROBINSON, B. (2008) ‘Favorite Music and hand massage’, Dementia, 7(1), pp. 95–108. doi:10.1177/1471301207085369.
REMINGTON, R. (2002). Calming music and hand massage with agitated elderly. Nursing Research, 51: 317–323.
TABLOSKI, P.A., MCKINNON-HOWE, L. AND REMINGTON, R. (1995). Effects of calming music on the level of agitation in cognitively impaired nursing home residents. The American Journal of Alzheimer’s Care and Related Disorders and Research, 10 (1): 10–15.
ZIV, N. AND DOLEV, E. (2013). The effect of background music on bullying: A pilot study. Children and Schools, 35: 83–90.
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