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An Australian study has found that music has a positive impact on the carers of people with dementia.
By Motherpedia
Date: September 07 2013
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A world-first study into the effect music played on an MP3 has on the carers of people living with dementia has found it to be a significant coping strategy.

This is one of a number of findings from a two-year research project between Victorian aged care provider, Southern Cross Care (Victoria) and La Trobe University.

Lead researcher, Dr Margaret Winbolt of La Trobe said there was no existing evidence that looked at the extent to which music could be used to support the carers of people living with dementia.

“The research results were quite remarkable, particularly those that found a significant decrease in carer psychological distress and a major increase in carer confidence to handle difficult and frustrating situations that often came up in the day-to-day life of living with someone who has dementia.”

The study has been backed by Alzheimer’s Australia (Victoria), who claim research has also shown that music is the last part of the memory to submit to dementia. 

SCC (Victoria) CEO, Jan Horsnell, said the idea of using MP3 music players as a means to assist carers in their role was first trialled in 2010 with home care clients living with dementia.

Downloading the client’s favourite music onto the MP3, carers then used this to assist in settling their loved one in a variety of settings, from home to waiting in a doctor’s surgery. Encouraged by the results, SCC then partnered with La Trobe University to research the effects that music, played on an MP3, had on the carers of people living with dementia.

SCC Dementia Consultant, Ben Gatehouse, said while music had been used as a calming technique for people with dementia living in a formal aged care setting, like residential home, there were no studies on how music could support carers, particularly those who wanted to keep a loved one with dementia living at home.

“Eighty-four per cent of carers who participated in the study said using the MP3 player proved positive for both themselves and their loved one living with the disease,” Gatehouse said.

“In just four weeks, almost 53% of carers reported a significant decrease in high or very high distress levels, and also noted greater periods of respite from their emotional and physically tiring role, whenever their loved one was listening to music.”

The study followed a group of fifty carers of people with dementia over a four-week period. During this time, those with dementia were supplied a portable MP3 player, downloaded with their favourite music, to be used throughout the day.

Carers kept a diary and reported on how the music calmed their loved one and settled some of the more common behaviours seen in dementia, like wandering and shadowing. Importantly, carers noted that the activity of listening to the music was an enjoyable pastime for their loved one.

Speaking at the launch, carer and research participant, Jan Young, said the MP3 player was one of the most effective calming methods she had ever used on her late husband, Graeme.

“Even when Graeme was in hospital, and could barely talk, what he could say, and what he wanted, was to have music played. It was incredible.”

Renowned singer/songwriter, former frontman of Hunters and Collectors and Alzheimer’s Australia ambassador, Mark Seymour, spoke and performed at the launch of the report in Melbourne earlier this week (pictured). One of the songs Seymour performed was ‘Classrooms and Kitchens’, written in honour of his mother, who is living with dementia.

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