Group music therapy in an eldercare setting reduces agitation and may be a useful tool in  managing aggressive behavior, according to a new study.

Investigators examined agitation in 30 nursing home residents aged 60 to 85 years at the Hyde Park Convalescent Hospital in Los Angeles. They used the Cohen Mansfield Agitation Inventory to assess resident behavior pre- and post-intervention.

Caregivers played familiar calming music such as ballads and lullabies through a speaker while residents ate lunch for approximately 30 to 45 minutes. The intervention took place over an eight-week period with three weekly sessions. All 30 participants attended each of the 24 sessions, supervised by a music therapist. Nurses completed the CMAI two weeks prior to intervention and at the end of the study.

Compared with residents who did not receive music therapy, the 30 residents who participated in the study exhibited fewer agitated behaviors at the end of the eight weeks. For example, an average CMAI score of 3.67 for screaming prior to receiving music therapy was reduced to a group mean score of 1.50 eight weeks later. 

Similar reductions were seen in physical, aggressive behaviors such as hitting, biting, and making sexual advances, reported Clinical Advisor.

“Music intervention can be regarded as a safe and cost-effective approach in managing dementia symptoms of elderly patients,” said researcher Pedro Estrada Morante, DNP, PMHNP-BC, NP-C. “This method promises great potential in replacing antipsychotic drugs to manage aggressive behavior brought about by dementia on elderly patients,” he concluded.

The study was presented at the American Psychiatric Nurses Association 34th Annual Conference, which wrapped up on October 4th.