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Background: Previous research highlights the importance of staff involvement in psychosocial interventions targeting neuropsychiatric symptoms of dementia. Music therapy has shown potential effects, but it is not clear how this intervention can be programmed to involve care staff within the delivery of patients' care. This study reports initial feasibility and outcomes from a five month music therapy programme including weekly individual active music therapy for people with dementia and weekly post-therapy video presentations for their carers in care homes. Methods: 17 care home residents and 10 care staff were randomised to the music therapy intervention group or standard care control group. The cluster randomised, controlled trial included baseline, 3-month, 5-month and post-intervention 7-month measures of residents' symptoms and well-being. Carer-resident interactions were also assessed. Feasibility was based on carers' feedback through semi-structured interviews, programme evaluations and track records of the study. Results: The music therapy programme appeared to be a practicable and acceptable intervention for care home residents and staff in managing dementia symptoms. Recruitment and retention data indicated feasibility but also challenges. Preliminary outcomes indicated differences in symptoms (13.42, 95 % CI: [4.78 to 22.07; p∈=∈0.006]) and in levels of wellbeing (-0.74, 95 % CI: [-1.15 to -0.33; p∈=∈0.003]) between the two groups, indicating that residents receiving music therapy improved. Staff in the intervention group reported enhanced caregiving techniques as a result of the programme. Conclusion: The data supports the value of developing a music therapy programme involving weekly active individual music therapy sessions and music therapist-carer communication. The intervention is feasible with modifications in a more rigorous evaluation of a larger sample size. Trial registration:, number NCT01744600.

Original publication




Journal article


BMC Geriatrics

Publication Date