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Could iPods and music help dementia patients?

Could iPods and music help dementia patients?
31st October 2014

Music therapy could lessen the need for certain medication among people with dementia, according to ongoing research in the US.

Experts at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) have been drafted in to evaluate the findings of an initiative looking at whether or not listening to favourite songs using digital music playlists created by friends and family helps patients’ moods to improve - and if it could potentially have a positive effect on memory.

The Music and Memory project started off in New York and has since spread to dozens of US states and several other countries. UWM has now been asked to lend a scientific perspective to evaluate the research at a handful of nursing homes in Wisconsin to begin with. 

It is hoped that the positive associations between music and memory could be harnessed to improve quality of life for many dementia patients, eventually reducing their dependency on medication and offering a unique therapeutic tool. 

Music and Memory was founded by Dan Cohen in 2006 when he decided that he wanted to be able to listen to his favourite music should he end up in a nursing home, but found out that not a single one of the US’s 16,000 nursing homes had digital music players such as iPods for the use of residents.

Professor Jung Kwak of UWM said: “Even if we develop dementia, our musical abilities and our memories associated with particular songs seem to remain intact.

"More than 70 per cent of people with dementia are affected by depression, aggression, anxiety, apathy or withdrawal. The usual treatment is medication."

Kitty Rhoades of the Wisconsin department of health services added that the Music and Memory study has already produced anecdotal evidence of the short-term effects of music therapy on people with dementia.

"Only through research will we begin to understand the long-range effects on things such as the extent of memory recovery," she explained.

Read more about Barchester's dementia care homes