The benefits of group singing activity for dementia sufferers and their caregivers

Investigating group singing activity with people with dementia and their caregivers: Problems and positive prospects

From Musicae Scientiae

The practice of music therapy has led us to understand that a range of conditions can be treated through music interactions and that many complex and subtle positive outcomes have been reported in therapeutic contexts. This study investigated the results of a 6-week program targeted for older individuals with dementia and their caregivers. It has revealed somewhat complex but overall positive outcomes of experience from this brief exposure to a singing group. Results indicate that many participants had positive gains including lucidity and improved social interaction within session, as well as enjoyment, singing engagement, and carry-over memory and recall from one week to the next. Thus, it seems that well-structured singing programs can encourage both caregiver and cared-for participant to develop better communication. Singing groups could be a way to stimulate wellbeing.

Abstract

The current study investigated the results of a 6-week singing program targeted for older individuals with dementia and their caregivers. Participants were from: a) a residential care unit within a retirement village with dementia clients and their site-based professional caregivers (mainly occupational therapists, but some care assistants); and b) a drop-in program organized by a dementia trust for clients living in the community, in which both client and spouse were asked to participate. The program, already tried and tested, had been developed with elderly clients mainly without dementia (see Davidson & Faulkner, 2010) but was modified to suit the new cohort and evaluated using standardized measures of dementia, health, and wellbeing, plus measures designed to examine specific singing program outcomes. In addition, video footage of the sessions and checklists kept by both the singing group facilitator and some of the caregivers were drawn upon for qualitative analysis. Whilst little effect of the singing program was revealed using standard outcome measures, study-specific measures and the qualitative analyses indicated that many participants had positive gains including lucidity and improved social interaction within session, as well as enjoyment, singing engagement, and carry-over memory and recall from one week to the next. Thus, it seems that well-structured singing programs can encourage both caregiver and cared-for participant to develop better communication. The lack of outcomes from the standardized measures indicates that these types of measures are either not sufficiently fine-grained or appropriate to the context of the short-term singing program to account for the changes that are otherwise captured in the qualitative measures.

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Article details
Davidson, J., & Fedele, J. (2011). Investigating group singing activity with people with dementia and their caregivers: Problems and positive prospects Musicae Scientiae, 15 (3), 402-422 DOI: 10.1177/1029864911410954

     
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