A milestone for Music & Memory

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Emily Mongan
Emily Mongan

With how much positive press and research surrounding the benefit music can bring to people with dementia, it came as somewhat of a shock to me to find there had never been a nationwide study of the Music & Memory program — until now.

A Brown University-based research team studied nearly 100 nursing homes that received formal Music & Memory training in 2013, along with facilities with similar Medicare ratings, geography and age mix that had not implemented the program.

The results of the study, which were published last week, showed some positive results for the personalized playlist program. Residents in skilled nursing facilities that had adopted the program became less likely to engage in disruptive behaviors, and more likely to stop taking antipsychotic or antianxiety medications. On the subject of residents' moods, however, the study found little improvement.

The results could be mixed for a variety of reasons, researchers said, such as the study “assuming” residents living in facilities that adopted the program participated, when in reality they hadn't. The study also didn't take facilities' other dementia interventions into account to see if the positive outcomes were specifically related to Music & Memory.

The study's findings, while not 100% positive, can serve as a jumping off point for future research into the popular program, researchers said.

“This is promising," said co-lead author Rosa Baier, MPH, in a news release. “It's a first step to understanding that there may be improvements that can be attributed to this intervention."

Baier and her team are planning a second study on the program as part of their work through Brown's Center for Long-Term Care Quality and Innovation, with long-term care innovations that “appear promising, but haven't yet been rigorously evaluated.”

For Music & Memory, I'd say the program does more than just “appear promising.” Anyone who's seen the movie “Alive Inside” can attest to that. But having academic research to back up the program's benefits and help fine tune it even more? That should be music to long-term care providers' ears.

Check out the full study on Music & Memory in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

Follow Emily Mongan @emmongan

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McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Emily Mongan.

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