Home' Australian Ageing Agenda : AAA Jul-Aug 2017 Contents M
usic in dementia care is gaining a foothold
in residential aged care and garnering
respect in scientific spheres as we
observe the impact of calming music on
physiology, emotional wellbeing and when a person
with dementia is perceived as having behaviours.
For care staff, families and friends, and
people living with dementia, music can have a
noticeable impact, without the side effects or
costs of other therapies.
Music engagement is different from music
therapy in the sense that there is no curative
agenda superimposed by an outsider, nor is it
music merely as entertainment, though that’s
Music can be a lifestyle choice integrated in
many aspects of daily care, including potentially
stressful routines that trigger agitation, such as
showering and mealtimes, or visitors to the facility.
Constructive integration of music in the day-
to-day culture of the facility is different from
occasional appointments with a specialist music
therapist. The latter has plenty of benefits, as
do the social and diversional aspects of music
There are numerous wonderful ser vices and
community activities available - such as visiting
performers, entertainers, community choirs,
volunteer musicians - that deliver music in groups
at appointed times.
This is a brilliant exposure to music, but I am
also advocating for more – music in ever yday
life with flexibility of availability that only comes
from involving care staff, family, and friends in
Only this ubiquity and flexibility can avail music
as an inter vention – in anticipation of stressors and
behaviours, responding to the individual.
Purposeful music inter vention tailored to
individual needs has been effective in reducing
pain perception, distracting from pain, calming
people before bed, establishing routines, and
creating comfort and reassurance in potentially
unfamiliar and stressful situations.
A range of music presentations is necessar y,
which can include:
• individually-selected music on portable devices
to evoke personal emotions, associations
• group participator y music such as singing,
playing instruments, tapping along to familiar
tunes, dancing or moving in a seated position
• active music-making, such as playing familiar
instruments or specifically chosen instruments
that are appropriate for people with dementia.
Suitable instruments don’t require experience
or rely on memor y and practice to produce
Tactile, multi-sensor y (visual and textured)
instruments will be easier to manipulate and
perceive for people with any sensor y impairments
or reduced fine motor control.
Group activities provide opportunities for
socialisation and ‘performative’ camaraderie –
feeling a sense of belonging and community, not
to mention playfulness and fun.
People who have many things done for them
can shine in a group - it can be an empowering
and enabling experience. However, it’s not for
ever ybody and carers need to be sensitive to
Like art, music-making can satisfy the need
for creativity and expression, most poignant
if someone does not have conversation or
memories to tell their own story.
Psychologists agree that expressing feelings is
almost always better than not, and people with
dementia can be isolated both in loneliness and
by the inability to share and express emotions
using verbal communication.
The new book, Music Remembers Me: Connection
and Wellbeing in Dementia (published by
HammondCare Media) is written to equip care
staff, pastoral care workers, volunteers, family
carers, community carers, friends and family
supporters of people living with dementia.
The book assumes no musical or
A practical set of steps explains simple ways to
introduce music for people with dementia, how
to select culturally and age-appropriate music and
use it in a connective way that is not reliant on
remembering or verbalising a response.
To learn more, go to musicremembersme.com. n
Dr Kirsty Beilharz is director of music
engagement at HammondCare.
Australian Ageing Agenda’s regular dementia section is guest edited by
Colm Cunningham, director of The Dementia Centre, HammondCare.
For further information, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
KIRSTY BEILHARZ advocates
for music in everyday life of
older people and those living
with dementia by involving
care staff, family and friends.
Music can be a lifestyle choice
integrated in many aspects of daily care
australianageingagenda.com.au | 47
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