It is well known that music soothes ailments. But the scientific community has realized that the effects of listening to music go far beyond what has long been imagined. An American study shows that the fourth art has the power to calm elderly people suffering from dementia.
A research team affiliated with the School of Public Health at Brown University (United States) made this discovery after conducting an experiment involving 976 nursing home residents. The latter suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or another type of senile dementia, and most have moderate or severe symptoms.
The researchers asked them to create personalized music playlists, with the help of caregivers and their loved ones. They are composed of songs that were popular during the volunteers’ youth. Other parameters were also taken into account when developing the playlists so that they best reflect each person’s musical past. “Age, location and other factors were taken into account to try to create a musical selection that was as close as possible to what the patient might have listened to“, explained Anthony Sisti, one of the co-authors of the study, to the Brown Daily Herald.
The volunteers listened to their playlist when they presented symptoms of agitation (complaints, blows, scratches, complaints, etc.), unlike the residents of the control group who did not turn to music when their behavior became more unstable. This experimental protocol took place over four months so that the academics could measure the effect of personalized playlists over time.
Towards a non-pharmacological approach
They found that listening to personalized music selections had a beneficial effect on patients with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. “Personalized music reduced the frequency of verbally agitating behaviors in residents randomly assigned to receive this type of treatment, compared to residents who received usual control treatment. The intervention had no effect on physical agitation behaviors“, emphasize the researchers in their article, published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.
In addition, the personalized playlists were a source of pleasure for the study participants throughout the experiment, which suggests that they could, in the long term, improve their quality of life. “Nursing homes are aware that medications used to manage behaviors (related to dementia) are not good for their residents. They are always looking for non-pharmacological care approaches“study co-author Ellen McCreedy told the Brown Daily Herald.
The findings of this study open up new perspectives in the treatment of dementia, showing how music, which is already present in retirement homes, can be used in a more targeted and personalized way to provide relief to older people.