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Music improves the lives of people with dementia, research by UCA academics shows

Research led by academics at the University for the Creative Arts (UCA) has shown that people living with dementia were happier, and indicated a potential for greater independence and improved physical health, when specific music was assigned to their everyday tasks.

Led by senior lecturer at UCA Mark Brill, the study assigned memorable songs from the early years of residents at two care homes in North Wales to individual daily tasks, including eating, dressing, taking medication and washing. Using Memory Tracks, a specially created app, the research team then assessed the impact that the use of associated music had on the residents’ lives over a period of four weeks.

“In trying to understand if it was possible to alleviate confusion caused by dementia, we used associated music through Memory Tracks to explore the potential that music has to support people living with the condition,” explains Mark.

“Measuring the impact through daily observation sheets, we were excited to see an early positive result from this initial study, and we were also pleased to note that staff found it a helpful tool in delivering care. We are now looking to further expand the research with the hope that by improving the overall quality of life, we will also see an improvement in the overall health of people living with dementia, which will in turn reduce the need for external professional intervention from nurses or GPs.”

Subject to funding, the next planned phase of the research project will be to work with more care homes as well as individuals caring for people with dementia at home, and to incorporate environment sensors and machine learning to encourage better and more predictive support.

“We will soon see one million people in the UK living with dementia,” Mark adds. “We hope to build on the potential that we have demonstrated with song-task association to provide better support for people now and in the future.”

Supported by the Consortium for Research Excellence, Support and Training (CREST), the study was carried out in collaboration with researchers at Glyndwr University in partnership with Memory Tracks, Pending Park Organisation and Manchester Metropolitan University.