Music Therapy in Clinical Setting for Patients with Alzheimer’s Disease

With the increasing number of the geriatric population in the United States, the rates of conditions such as dementia associated with age progression has also risen. Dementia in the elderly is associated with impaired cognitive functions that may result in depression, memory loss, change in behavior, and disorientation. The most common form of primary dementia is Alzheimer’s disease and it accounts for approximately 60% of diagnosed cases of dementia. Secondary cases of dementia result from factors such as infections, traumatic conditions affecting the subdural region of the brain, metabolic disorders, and inflammation. Music has been considered an effective non-pharmacological intervention in clinical settings for the management of symptoms of dementia. In particular, this essay will focus on the use of music in managing the symptoms such as anxiety, aggression, and depression faced by dementia.

Research shows that there is a positive increase in social interest and participation among patients with dementia managed through music therapy. Dementia patients have a reduced ability of interpreting their surroundings, which in turn contributes to agitation. Agitation among patients admitted in nursing homes can lead to attempts to escape their environment, withdrawal, or aggressive behavior towards the nurses (Minagar, Finney and Heilman 98). Geriatric patients have an increased likelihood of experiencing adverse reactions from drugs. Continued use of anti-anxiety medication can be detrimental to patients’ health especially among geriatric patients (Lippincott 21).

In a study that examined the use of music therapy for treating patients with dementia, 132 patients suffering from moderate to severe forms of dementia were included as participants in the study. The patients were evaluated for symptoms such as agitation and depression. The study was conducted for a period of two weeks. The results obtained from this research showed that the symptoms of depression and agitation had significantly reduced after the two weeks period. Analyses conducted during the study showed that there was a relationship between music therapy and neuropsychiatric symptoms (Ray and Mittelman n.p).

Music acts as a brain stimulus by interacting with the brain in a complex manner. It influences the malleability of the brain synapses and its neuronal learning center. This process begins in the outer and middle ear. Vibrations created by musical sounds leads to transmission of stimuli through the neuronal synapse. This signal is then passed from the auditory brainstem to the thalamus region of the brain. From the thalamus, these signals are then passed to the auditory cortex. Medical research shows the effects of music on the basal forebrain region and the cortical structures which are responsible for language, memory, and emotional arousal. Music encodes the mental state of individuals (Perry, Sturm and Seeley n.p; Fletcher, Clark and Warren n.p).

Music has also been used in nursing homes to help patient access long-forgotten memories that they held close to their heart before the onset of dementia. While patients may not be able to remember the songs played in important events such as their weddings, graduation, prom night or other events, hearing such songs all of a sudden enables them to recall the memories associated with those events. This kind of music therapy provides soothes and provides pleasure to patients. Its use with other psychological treatment options reduces the overdependence on anti-anxiety or antipsychotic drugs. Aside from these, playing music that patients can relate to in nursing homes has been linked with the creation of a comfortable environment. Patients associate listening to music with being at their homes, which reduces their anxiety, and need to use anxiety suppressants (Moisse n.p).

An important factor to consider in nursing homes when using music therapy to manage patients is the type of music played and music preferences. While conducting group therapy, music played will elicit different responses from the patients.  Agitation or anxiety can be reduced among patients in cases where their preferred music is played. As such, the use of preferred music has the potential of producing a therapeutic effect in the care of dementia patients (Acton 200; Moisse n.p).

The nonpharmacological approach of using music to manage symptoms of dementia involves consideration of numerous aspects of the patient’s mental condition and care provision. How the music is delivered to the patient is an important consideration as methods such as singing to the patient or with the patient, listening to music and group therapy are potential options. However based on medical research, the most effective way was seen as the use of individual preferred music. The benefits of music therapy in patients with dementia include lowered levels of agitation during care provision, enhanced communication and involvement in activities, compliance, and general relaxation (Moisse n.p; Papathanasiou 411).

Through the studies discussed in this essay, it can be concluded that music therapy is beneficial to patients with dementia. Music therapy has been associated with enhanced interaction among dementia patients. Aside from this, it also promotes caregiving practices, the communication between nurses and the patients. Music preferences should however, be considered in these treatment options as some songs may be associated with unpleasant memories. Observing how the patient behaves during music therapy is essential in determining the efficiency of using music therapy.




Works Cited

Acton, Ashton. Delirium, Dementia, Amnestic, Cognitive Disorders: Advances in Research and Treatment: 2011 Edition: . Scholarly Edition, 2012. Print.

Fletcher, Philip D., Camilla N. Clark and Jason D Warren. “Music, Reward and Frontotemporal Dementia.” Brain: A Journal of Neurology (2014): 137(10): e300. Retrieved from Web.

Lippincott. Nursing 2015 Drug Handbook. Lippincott & Wilkins, 2014. Print.

Minagar, Alireza, Glen Finney and Kenneth M. Heilman. Neurobehavioral Manifestations of Neurological Diseases: Diagnosis & Treatment, An Issue of Neurologic CLinics, E-Book. Elsevier Health Sciences, 2016. Print.

Moisse, Katie. Alzheimer’s Disease: Music Brings Patients ‘Back to Life’. 12 April 2012. <Retrieved from>. Web.

Papathanasiou. Aphasia and Related Neuroligenic Communication Disorders. Jones & Bartlett Publishers, 2012. Print.

Perry, C. D., et al. “Anatomical Correlates of Reward-seeking Behaviours in Behavioural Variant Frontotemporal Dementia.” Brain (2014): 137(pt 6) 1621-1626. Retrieved from Web.

Ray, Kendra D. and S. Mary Mittelman. “Music Therapy: A Nonpharmacologial Approach to the Care of Agitation and Depressive Symptoms for Nursing Home Residents with Dementia.” SAGE (2015): Retrieved from Web.