Research into music and dementia

Can live music enhance the atmosphere of a hospital ward for patients with dementia?

Research into music and dementia
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    pledged of £2,000

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Completion Date: Sun 15 Mar 2015


I aim to raise £2,000 to enable the planning and development stages of my PhD research exploring whether live music can enhance an acute hospital ward for patients with dementia and their carers.  

Dementia is a major world-wide public health issue; in the UK there are currently around 820,000 people with dementia. The Alzheimer's Society found that up to 1 in 4 beds in General Hospitals in England, Wales, and N.Ireland, are occupied by people with dementia, and that dementia appeared to worsen in 54% of patients during their hospital stay (Alzheimer's Society, 2009).

Systematic literature searches have shown that there is a growing number of studies relating to the benefits of music for people with dementia in long-term care. However, there are no studies which explore the effects of musical interventions for patients with dementia in acute healthcare.

Who am i?

I am a part-time PhD candidate at the University of Exeter. I'm a musician, and I work in care homes and hospitals performing for patients, mainly older patients with dementia. I run a company, Musica overseeing a team of musicians who deliver music workshops and performances to benefit health and wellbeing. I am a first time mum to a baby girl, and I enjoy spending time with my family in the beautiful Dorset countryside.

my story

My PhD research builds on my experience of working in acute hospitals as an arts provider and coordinator over the past 5 years. I want to explore some issues in depth that I have experienced through my work and through my pilot study as part of my MA in Music Psychology at the University of Sheffield.

My main area of research is to explore the role of music for enhancing wellbeing in an acute hospital ward for patients with dementia. I will focus on the following issues to explore the area of wellbeing in more depth: can music have a calming effect on an often busy ward environment? Can music reduce agitation in patients with dementia? Can music improve the patient experience for someone living with dementia? Alongside this, I would like to add to the research into how to actively involve patients with dementia in research, including the challenges faced and lessons learned whilst conducting my own research.

Through my work as a musician at a number of hospitals, I have seen firsthand the benefits of live music in an acute hospital ward. For patients with dementia, music seems to have a calming effect; it can stimulate memories and can help to create an atmosphere that promotes a sense of security within an otherwise busy and frightening environment. Often patients’ faces will light up when they hear the music - a nurse once commented that a patient was the most animated they had seen him whilst I played music. Patients engage with the music, often by tapping their feet and clapping, or talking about memories associated with a particular piece. I am interested to understand not only what music might be able to facilitate, but more theoretically how music benefits patients with dementia.

In the UK there are around 820,000 people with dementia. One in fourteen people over 65 years of age and one in six people over 80 years of age has some form of dementia. It is estimated that by 2021 there will be one million people with dementia in the UK. This is expected to rise to over 1.7 million people with dementia by 2051. (Alzheimer’s Society).

 If my research shows that live music can benefit patients with dementia, other hospitals across the UK may want to use music as part of their care for patients with dementia. There may be a link with an improvement in patients' quality of life, and length of stay in hospital. My research could open up the pathway for larger projects exploring this area and the direct benefits for the NHS.

Where will the money go?

If I reach the minimum target of £1,000 the money will be spent on 10 days of  planning and delivering focus groups with patients, carers, staff, to ensure the research is planned with patient and public involvement.

If I reach the maximum target of £2,000 the money will be spent on 20 days of planning and delivering focus groups, meeting with the musician, and the writing and submission of the application for NHS ethical review.


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Help me to succeed!

You don't need to give money to help me succeed! Please share my project with anyone you think would support me. I think it's a great idea, and the more people who know about it, the more like likely I am to raise awareness of this pioneering research.
I know I said you don't need to give money to help me, but I would love it if you did! Please sponsor mean help make this happen.