Music therapy in dementia care and neuro-rehabilitation

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


A video clip posted by the Los Angeles Times shows a woman lying in a hospital bed (Simmons 2013). Beside her bed sits a young nurse. He is holding her hand in both of his – and he is singing for her. She looks at him, her lips are moving with some of the words and a smile comes to her face. Then she turns her head away and wipes away a tear, clearly moved by his singing. In line with the increasing interest in applying music in medical care, the healing power of music has been recently highlighted in journals such as the Scientific American (Thompson & Schlaug 2015) and Musicae Scientiae (Croom 2015). In an article published in the journal Nature, the “surprising preservation of musical memory” in persons with Alzheimer’s Disease is explained (Jacobsen et al. 2015: 2439). The common goal for the dementia field is to advance and develop the culture of care. The music therapist may engage directly with the person with dementia through a music therapeutic intervention, or may assist other healthcare professionals, relatives or musicians in providing musical activities to build a relationship with the person with dementia, and on the terms of each person with dementia. It is complicated to interact through mutual understanding with persons who are difficult to engage due to neurodegeneration, but if this is done with insight and knowledge we might see important and beneficial ‘side effects’, such as increased quality of life, less agitation and restraints, and a reduction in psychotropic medication. Music therapists,who play a role in staff training and supervision, and not only in direct music therapy practice, bring new important dimensions to how music therapy discipline is understood and how it is integrated in interdisciplinary work.
Original languageEnglish
JournalApproaches. Music therapy and special education
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)28-31
Number of pages3
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017

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