Music therapy: A nonpharmacological approach to the care of agitation and depressive symptoms for nursing home residents with dementia

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Abstract

Depression, agitation, and wandering are common behaviors associated with dementia and frequently observed among nursing home residents. Even with pharmacological treatment, behaviors often persist, hindering quality of life for elders, their family, and paid caregivers. This study examined the use of music therapy for treatment of these symptoms among 132 people with moderate to severe dementia in nursing homes. Participants were evaluated for depressive symptoms, agitation, and wandering to determine their predominate behavior. There were two assessments, two weeks apart, prior to intervention, followed by a two-week intervention, and two follow-up assessments, also two weeks apart. A repeated measures ANOVA determined that after two weeks of music therapy, symptoms of depression and agitation were significantly reduced; there was no change for wandering. Multivariate analyses confirmed a relationship between music therapy and change in neuropsychiatric symptoms associated with dementia. Results suggest widespread use of music therapy in long-term care settings may be effective in reducing symptoms of depression and agitation.

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