Research undertaken on behalf of MHA suggests music therapy is doubling the well-being of people with dementia at its care homes.
Music therapy provides one-to-one assistance for residents with dementia, encouraging them to express themselves through music and thereby preserving their abilities to communicate for longer. MHA, which is the UK’s largest not for profit provider of care homes, has been convinced of the benefits of music therapy for people with dementia for several years and now employs its own team of 12 qualified music therapists to deliver support to residents nationwide.
The trial, undertaken at homes in Oxfordshire and Wiltshire by Professor Helen Odell-Miller of Anglia Ruskin University, is the first undertaken on behalf of the charity and suggests that music therapy has a dramatic effect on well-being and lessens the incidence of anxiety and challenging behaviours.
According to the results of the trial residents’ well-being scores doubled in three months and were sustained at five months and even beyond therapy. Negative behaviours (such  as anxiety) halved in three months and continued to fall beyond therapy.
Prof Odell-Miller believes that the research outcomes are significant at an international level.
“The reduction in behavioural problems for those receiving music therapy in contrast to those who were not receiving music therapy in the study, is extremely important for future care of this population.
“Our findings also substantiate previous findings from another study in Scandinavia where similar outcomes have were reported," she said.
Ming Hung Hsu, Lead Music Therapist at MHA says,
“This is an important study which validates our use of music therapy within dementia care homes. Residents’ mood, alertness and engagement significantly improved and behaviours such as agitation, depression, anxiety and aggression were reduced.”
Adrian Bagg, the charity’s Chief Executive welcomed the findings.
“Thousands of older people across the UK are losing the ability to communicate due to dementia and if we can slow down that loss, or enable people to preserve their abilities for longer, we can make a real difference to residents and their families,” he said.
In addition to the reported benefits for residents, staff working with the residents said that watching videos of music therapy sessions gave them better insight into residents’ histories and cognitive functioning and helped them to improve their communication with them. They also reported feeling personally motivated and uplifted as a result.
Prof Odell-Miller said that the study had successfully tested the methodology that could be used in a large-scale clinical trial.
“The question is not just whether music therapy can help someone achieve a better quality of life, but whether it can actually slow down the deteriorating cognitive process in dementia,” she said.

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