New study shows benefits of music therapy



Anglia Ruskin professor leads research into dementia in MHA care homes

Research undertaken by Anglia Ruskin University on behalf of MHA (Methodist Homes Association) suggests that music therapy can significantly improve 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 preserving their ability to communicate for longer.

MHA, 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, which took place at homes in Oxfordshire and Wiltshire by Professor Helen Odell-Miller of Anglia Ruskin University, is the first to be 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.

Professor Odell-Miller, Head of Music Therapy Training at Anglia Ruskin, believes that the research outcomes are significant at an international level.

Professor Odell-Miller said:

"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."

Ming Hung Hsu, Lead Music Therapist at MHA, said:

"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. He said:

"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."

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.

Professor Odell-Miller said that the study had successfully tested the methodology that could be used in a large-scale clinical trial.

She added:

"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."

Music therapy at Anglia Ruskin

Find out more about the Music Therapy MA course, or read about the work of our Music Therapy Centre in Cambridge.

Photo: Ming Hung Hsu delivering music therapy

To read more information, click here.

Anglia Ruskin University

Anglia Ruskin University is the university of choice for students and employers in the East of England and operates principally from campuses in Cambridge and Chelmsford

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