A recent small-scale trial based at NHS Fife indicates that music playlists used on A&E wards can have a calming effect for most elderly dementia patients, offering potential to reduce agitation and distress without resort to medication.
Study shows music has a calming influence on elderly dementia patients. [Online]: Nurses.co.uk, September 25th 2019.
Music has calming effect on hospital dementia patients. Scotland: Edinburgh: BBC News (Edinburgh, Fife and East Scotland), September 24th 2019.
“The results of the study were welcomed by dementia charity Playlist For Life”.
The likely early origins of this research (which remains unreported seemingly in the peer-reviewed literature):
Skinner, H. (2018). An exploration of individualized music on levels of agitation in people with dementia in a specialist mental health setting: a mixed method approach. (Doctoral dissertation). Dundee: University of Abertay, 2018.
Further details, supplied by Matt Farrah (Co-Founder of Nurses.co.uk) [direct quotation]:
“How Music Helps Dementia Patients Deal With Distress
NHS Fife conducted an eight-week project. They loaded an MP3 player with songs from a variety of genres. The played them to patients displaying stress and agitation. Researchers used the music as a diversion technique. They discovered that it significantly reduced the levels of anxiety and 96 % of the patients involved in the study appeared less stressed during clinical procedures. Now the method has been introduced in post-theatre recovery and wards with elderly patients. One dementia nurse consultant based in Scotland observed that patients are often distressed when they come to A&E. However, they first try to deal with such distress using non-pharmacological means. Fortunately, music has aided many patients with dementia deal with their distress. They now consider the use of music as a necessity, not a nicety. Furthermore, many health experts see music as part of a broader approach to helping patients and their carers deal with dementia.
The study is based on trials involving 28 patients. It featured assessments on nine key behaviours including eye contact, vocalisations, touch, movements to music, laughter and smiling. It concluded that music supplements scientific treatment by distracting the patient’s attention away from stressful procedures, which decreases anxiety. Sarah Metcalfe, chief executive of Playlist for Life, was pleased with the promising results produced by the NHS Fife project.
She hopes other NHS Trusts adopt the approach. It can help them enhance the level of care they provide to patients with dementia as well as support family members and carers. Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland Chairman Adam Daly said they support any evidence-based research that can help people with dementia deal with distress, especially if medication can be avoided. The interventions can take many novel forms, but the use of music is an exciting development. It’s great to see how music is used to benefit people with dementia, especially within the hospital”.