Although there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that combining music therapy and reminiscence in a structured and complementary way may yield positive well-being outcomes for people with dementia, there is a gap in the literature combining both in equal measure. Furthermore, there are no known studies exploring the use of ‘associative items’ as part of the combined intervention and no known standardised protocol or method currently exists. This mixed methods study aims to explore whether combining music therapy and reminiscence with associative items for people with dementia may promote positive mood and engagement levels and shared interaction through (a) musical expression, (b) reminiscence and (c) verbal interaction. Five weekly reminiscence-focused music therapy (RFMT) sessions with associative items were conducted with a group of five people with dementia living in a residential care unit. Results from the Dementia Care Mapping (DCM) revealed that the RFMT intervention was highly effective in promoting positive mood and engagement levels and shared interaction. Participants exhibited considerable positive mood and engagement (+3) 51.6%, and high positive mood and engagement (+5) 38.2%, of the total time observed. The three most frequent behaviours across the five RFMT sessions included musical expression, which was observed 53.2% of the time, reminiscence, observed 23% of the time, and verbal interaction, observed 34% of the total time observed. Data from the music therapist’s reflective journal and session summaries revealed that the associative items prompted reality orientation, verbal interaction, and cognitive stimulation. The music elements were found to increase group cohesion, stimulate cognition, and act as an anchor, re-orientating group members intermittently. Implications of practice are considered, and future recommendations of practice are outlined.
Copyright (c) 2021 Lisa Kelly, Bill Ahessy
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