Some examples of how music can benefit people with dementia were documented in the 2014 documentary Alive Inside, but researchers wanted to evaluate this in a scientific manner. They then decided to implement a "Music and Memory" program in 98 nursing homes, and compare the results to 98 nursing homes used as a control group. The endpoints they compared included the discontinuation of antipsychotic and antianxiety medication (if used), reductions in disruptive behaviour and improvements in mood. Over six months, dementia patients who got to listen to music personalised to their tastes had a 20% chance of discontinuing antipsychotics, compared to 17.6%. 57% had reduced behavioural problems, compared to 51%. Music can also bring back lost memories, especially if it is tied to their past.
|Singing bowls. Source|
While it may be too new of a concept to be published in high-quality journals, a more informal trial conducted in Western Australia suggests that sound therapy with singing bowls may specifically help patients with dementia. The main endpoint was reductions in "agitation", involving aggression, verbal agitation (such as screaming and repetitive sentences) and physical non-aggressive behaviour (such as taking clothes off and handling objects inappropriately). After some time with recorded sound therapy, residents were more likely to be classed as non-agitated across all three categories. Case studies described some residents as having improved appetite and sleep, being more active and alert, and better verbal ability. From the findings so far, sound therapy looks like something that should be far more recognised, and more research is needed to both quantify and refine its effects.