Music that has a strong link to past experiences can offer a means of connecting with an individual with dementia when other means of connection/communication have diminished. For people with dementia who are living at home, musical engagement typically takes the form of listening to recorded tracks whilst other forms of engagement with music tend to be overlooked.

Responsive, creative musical engagement, such as singing, can have significance in the present moment to a person with dementia and can foster connections. Using music that has a strong connection to past experiences as a starting point, the “Exploring and Developing Creative Interactions with Personally Significant Music” study will explore the possibilities for working with various forms of music for individuals with dementia who live at home and their family/carers, and the potential for the exploration of musical engagement to promote personal development. The final aim is to develop methods and resources that will enable other people with dementia and the people who care for them to explore and develop musical engagement together.

We caught up with Ruby Swift, Chief Investigator of the study.


Ruby Swift, Chief Investigator of the study

What are the main aims of the study?

The main aim of this study is to explore how engaging in music can promote personal development for individuals with dementia and their carers. It also aims to develop methods and resources to enable other people with dementia, and the people who care for them, to explore and develop musical engagement together. To do so, I will use music that has a strong connection to past experiences as a starting point for exploring various forms of music with individuals with dementia living at home and their carers.

Who can take part? (eligibility criteria)

I am looking for volunteer pairs, made up by a person living with dementia who experiences difficulty with verbal communication, and the person who cares for them.

What does it involve for a participant?

Each pair will be invited to take part in one initial meeting, followed by up to 12 weekly music sessions. After around 8 weeks following these sessions, a final meeting will take place. The music sessions will be opportunities for us to explore both familiar and unfamiliar music and sensory stimulation.

The types of activities that we may engage in include listening to music, playing musical instruments, humming and singing. They can also involve conversational interviews to share experiences, and explore participants’ relationship to movement, arts and crafts, and to objects they can handle, taste or smell.

How long is the study for? / Is it a one-off visit?

The study will run for approximately 21 weeks, including a gap of around 8 weeks between the final music session and the final meeting. All sessions and meetings will last for approximately 1 hour and will take place in the participants’ homes, at mutually agreed times. All the sessions will be video and audio recorded.

What do you hope the outcomes of the study will be?

Taking part in this study will give volunteers the opportunity to explore music as creative process, which includes not only listening, but also experiencing, creating, expression, communication and movement. Enjoying and sharing music together could have a positive impact on volunteers’ lives. Volunteer input will be highly valued and could potentially contribute to providing methods and resources for others in the same situation to enjoy and share music together at home.

Where is the study based?

The activities involved in this research will take place in volunteers’ own homes living within a 30-mile radius of Worcestershire Acute Hospital NHS Trust (Kidderminster Hospital), where the study is based.

You can see if you are eligible for this study or others around the nation by logging into your Join Dementia Research account.

Not registered with Join Dementia Research? Why not sign up today?