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The importance of music for people with dementia: the perspectives of people with dementia, family carers, staff and music therapists

Orii McDermott, Martin Orrell, Hanne Mette Ridder
Aging & Mental Health 2014, 18 (6): 706-16
24410398

OBJECTIVES: Despite the popularity of music-based interventions in dementia care, there is a limited knowledge of how and why people with dementia find music beneficial for their well-being. A qualitative study was conducted to develop further insights into the musical experiences of people with dementia and explore the meaning of music in their lives.

METHOD: Separate focus groups and interviews with (1) care home residents with dementia and their families, (2) day hospital clients with dementia, (3) care home staff, and (4) music therapists, were conducted. The findings of the thematic analysis were investigated further in the light of psychosocial factors with the aim of developing a theoretical model on music in dementia.

RESULTS: Six key themes were identified. The accessibility of music for people at all stages of dementia, close links between music, personal identity and life events, the importance of relationship-building through music making were particularly highlighted as valuable. The psychosocial model of music in dementia was developed. The model revealed the importance of music to support the personal psychology of people with dementia and the social psychology of the care home environment.

CONCLUSION: The effects of music go beyond the reduction of behavioural and psychological symptoms. Individual preference of music is preserved throughout the process of dementia. Sustaining musical and interpersonal connectedness would help value who the person is and maintain the quality of their life.

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