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What carers and family said about music therapy on behaviours of older people with dementia in residential aged care

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Abstract

Aim

This study sought to evaluate the effectiveness of group music therapy (MT) intervention on behaviours of older people with dementia.

Method

Reported here are qualitative data from five, semi-structured focus groups; two comprising a total of seven family members and three comprising a total of 23 staff members.

Results

A number of core themes emerged: temporality, effect and policy with a number of subthemes. The MT effect is tempered by the temporality of (i) the older person's dementia state, (ii) the session and (iii) the psychosomatic effect on the older person. Music therapy is perceived to (i) evoke memories and facilitate reminiscence, (ii) act as a diversion (has an instrumental value) and it is contentious to discount the (iii) dichotomy between music and therapist in terms of the overall effect. Finally, policymakers need to know that MT is (i) highly prized and more, not less, MT is recommended.

Conclusion

Findings from this study illustrate that the timing of the MT session has consequences for the workflow in the residential aged care facility; MT has a psychosomatic effect and participants here evaluate this as temporal. Care providers and family members acknowledge the instrumental value of MT and its helping with cognition and exercise. They have mixed views about the effects of the music and the effect on the older person by the therapist but most definitely want policymakers to ensure more, not less, planned and better funded MT is part of ongoing care in the residential aged care context. Areas for future research and policy are also highlighted.

Implications for practice

These views on group MT in residential aged care can initiate critical reflection on current practices and systems. Research is needed exploring the timing and scheduling of MT sessions at different times in the day for older person with dementia exhibiting negative behaviours.

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