Older Adults Using music as part of your daily care routine

October 28, 2015

We believe that music can be integrated into part of the care package for people living with dementia. We have had many care homes asking for our advice on how to establish this integration, and so we have decided to produce a monthly blog post with tips on how to use music as part of your daily care routine. No musical experience is required!

During my current PhD research into the effects of music for people living with dementia, I have read about the use of music during morning care routines and I thought that this would be a good place to start.

Firstly, this should go without saying, chat with the person you are caring for about their favourite song/singer/style of music, did they used to go dancing? Did they ever play an instrument? If they didn’t play an instrument, what instrument would they have liked to play? Do they like to listen to the radio?

Make a note of their responses, remember musical taste is changeable dependent on our moods, so make sure you chat about their preference on a regular basis. Find some of the songs they mentioned or musical style.

Talk about things other than the task you are focussing on e.g. whilst you are helping them to put their shirt on you might like to talk about dancing, and what they would wear to dance in, play some dance music and help to put their shirt on as you talk about the piece. If it takes a little while to put the shirt on the person living with dementia may not become as frustrated as they might had they been getting ready in silence.  Music can be an excellent distraction.

If you find that the person you care caring for becomes agitated during washing, sing to them gentle easy songs that are easy to sing along with e.g. Que Serra Serra, Daisy Daisy, You are my Sunshine etc.  Use the music as a tool for communication, make sure you keep eye contact, and smile!

It is important that the music is not used in a patronising way, ensure that the person you are caring for has choice; are there any particular songs they would like to hear? Perhaps they wouldn’t like to hear music this morning? Everyone is entitled to make their own choices, be sure not to inflict your own preference onto the care situation.

The use of music for people living with dementia is a growing area of research, a small number of studies explore the use of music during care routines. Research conducted by Hammar et al (2010) shows that music therapeutic caregiving (MTC) – when caregivers sing for or together with PWD (persons with dementia) during caregiving activities – can enhance communication for people living with dementia and can evoke more vitality and positive emotions (Hammar et al 2010. Communicating through caregiver singing during morning care situations in dementia care.  Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences.)

We would love to hear whether you use music during morning care routines and whether you find it beneficial in other areas of care? Do you sing the same songs or do you add variety? What songs do you sing?

Have a great day!

Rosie