The singing nurse?! Music therapy, interdisciplinarity and an overview of research in psychosocial interventions: Keynote presentation

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Conference: Music Therapy and Dementia Care in the 21st Century

Dementia is one of the major causes of disability and dependency among older people, with agitation in dementia as the most significant symptom causing patient distress and caregiver burden in later stages of the disease. Music in various forms (e.g. caregiver singing or music listening) is widely used in nursing homes for people with dementia; however these practices are generally little informed by music therapy theory and research. In this presentation, an overview of research in non- pharmacological approaches is given, and music therapy is described as an effective psychosocial intervention for reducing agitation in persons with dementia.

I will shortly refer to an exploratory RCT where we found that 6 weeks of biweekly music therapy sessions reduced agitation disruptiveness as well as the prescription of psychotropic medication (Ridder et al., 2013). The music therapy practice in this study was informed by a psychosocial model of care (see McDermott et al., 2014). From this, I will further discuss how music therapy research may inform the culture of care for persons with dementia and how music therapy should not only be carried out as direct practice (Bunt & Stige, 2014) but also as indirect music therapy practice.

Indirect practice is suggested to play an important role in future culture of care in nursing homes with the music therapist as a key ‘actor’ in implementing music interventions in daily care situations, e.g. in dyads with caregivers or relatives and the person with dementia. The aim is to provide and develop psychosocial interventions in the interdisciplinary team, and to support staff and caregivers in their use of music as part of the daily culture of care.

Bunt, L. & Stige, B. (2014). Music therapy. An art beyond words (2nd ed.).London: Routledge.

McDermott, O, Orrell, M. & Ridder, H.M. (2014). The importance of music for people with dementia: the perspectives of people with dementia, family carers, staff and music therapists, Aging & Mental Health, 18(6), 706-716.

Ridder, H.M., Stige, B., Qvale, L.-G. & Gold, C. (2013). Individual Music Therapy for Agitation in dementia: an exploratory RCT. Aging & Mental Health, 17(6), 667-678.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date6 Sep 2015
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 6 Sep 2015
EventMusic therapy and dementia care in the 21st century. - Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, United Kingdom
Duration: 4 Sep 20156 Dec 2015


ConferenceMusic therapy and dementia care in the 21st century.
LocationAnglia Ruskin University
CountryUnited Kingdom

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