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Home-based dementia music therapy program recruiting for study participants

A new home-based music therapy program teaching carers to use music strategically to manage agitation and other symptoms of dementia have begun a recruitment drive to find participants for the study in Melbourne and Brisbane.

A new music therapy program is recruiting for participants for their study, which is investigating the effectiveness of music therapy in the home for people with dementia. [Source: Shutterstock]
A new music therapy program is recruiting for participants for their study, which is investigating the effectiveness of music therapy in the home for people with dementia. [Source: Shutterstock]

Home-based family caregiver-delivered interventions for people living with dementia will research the effectiveness of music therapy in the home for people with dementia and whether it will reduce the burden and improve the quality of life for the carer.

Program researchers will visit the nominated carer and provide them with a training program, teaching them how to choose music that matches the presentation, or mood, of a person with dementia to manage any behaviour.

Additionally, the study aims to improve the relationship between the carer and the person they are caring for, since music therapy can have a positive effect on an individual with dementia.

Professor and Head of Music Therapy, Director of International Research Partnerships Creative Arts and Music Therapy Research Unit (CAMTRU) at The University of Melbourne and Professor II at the Centre for Research in Music and Health (CREMAH) at the Norwegian Academy of Music, Dr Felicity Baker PhD, has been working on the project for ten years but has only managed to get substantial funding of $3.8 million recently.

Dr Baker says when she first attempted to pilot the study it was the wrong time to unveil the intervention, but the recent push for elderly people to stay in the home longer means this project will be better suited to the current climate in Australia.

“One of the main areas we are looking at it is how carers can better manage the wellbeing of the person they are caring for. But in doing so, we are also looking at the burden on the carer and seeing if they experience a better quality of life and less stress because they are managing their person better,” says Dr Baker.

“Because music is one of those things that is a shared experience, when they do music things together it will kind of support the maintenance of a more meaningful relationship.

“It’s about building that sense of, this is still the person I always knew, and music has this ability to... I use the expression you can see the person behind the dementia. You see parts of them that are still there.”

The program will also include a health economic analysis, which involves investigating if the person with dementia requires less medical care, medication, community support or have less falls, as well as examining the carer and if they require less medical care.

Dr Baker says the carers will be taught different ideas to help manage the moods of people with dementia, like the importance of tempos that can impact behaviour, so that music is chosen and used more meaningfully.

She adds that a carer should choose music that is already known by the person with dementia, which could calm the person down, distract the individual or even encourage conversation around the importance of the song to the person.

Dr Baker says the limitations of other carer support programs is that carers are required to go out and learn these skills, but this music therapy program is different because they visit the carer.

Dr Baker explains, “The long term plan is that we will actually develop an app where they can access the information online or via a downloadable app. The University of Melbourne is actually going to support the development of this app next year.

“We are looking at any co-habitating dyad (group of two people), or even more than one person, where the person with dementia is living together with their family member.

“So it’s not someone that goes and visits down the road. They actually live together and the carer has responsibility for caring for them for the majority of the time.”

If you are interested in the music therapy program, contact homeside-australia@unimelb.edu.au or call Dr Imogen Clark, the study researcher, on (03) 8344 4449.

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