"Just like breath, the arts; drumming, dancing, singing, and colour are all natural to life." - Varun Venkit (Founder / Director of Taal Inc.)
Taal Inc is an organization that positively influences health and well-being through rhythm, music and the arts. It is the marriage of psychology and the arts to bring to everyday man, the artistic goals and more importantly, the non-artistic goals of ushering music, song or dance into ones lives. Historically speaking, the arts have held a very central position in our cultural lives. Taal Inc celebrates and reinforces this connection by introducing it in areas where it is least expected today.
The following article is an account of a wide range of research that shows the potential benefits of music therapy for patients suffering from Dementia:
The word dementia describes a set of symptoms that may include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language. Dementia is caused when the brain is damaged by diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease or a series of strokes. Dementia is progressive, which means the symptoms will gradually get worse. "Treating patients with dementia requires the clinician to address difficulties with short-term memory, language, comprehension and retrieval. Some modifications for treatment of patients with dementia include emphasizing behavioral techniques, exploiting preserved abilities (repetition skills, ability to read aloud, social skills), and using methods to improve comprehension and retrieval."
Therefore, the need for therapeutic approaches that help the patient function socially and develop emotionally, without dependencies on drugs is recognized among caregivers and researchers. To this end, therapy is being studied from a psychosocial aspect in order to help the patients cope with the disease's social and psychological problems. Instead of increasing the number of pills, these studies aim at making the patients' lives easier by making changes in their everyday activities that can help in alleviating the stress and other behavioral issues that they face on a daily basis.
Music therapy is defined by the World Federation of Music therapy as "the use of music and/or its musical elements [sound, rhythm, melody and harmony] by a qualified music therapist, with a client or a group, in a process designed to facilitate and promote communication, relationships, learning, mobilization, expression, organization and other relevant therapeutic objectives in order to meet physical, emotional, mental, social and cognitive needs." Several studies emphasize on the possibilities for development of communicative abilities and improvement of behavioral issues, since these are some of the major issues that are caused by the onset of dementia, through the use of music, either being played in the background or having the patients participate in music related activities.
Many treatments of dementia depend on the client's ability to communicate verbally. When one is no longer able to speak or understand language, music therapy might offer alternative opportunities for communication. People who cannot speak any more are still able to hum or play along with music.
Music therapy has shown to reduce many varied behavioral problems through music therapy. One study examined the effects of live music therapy on agitation and concluded that it was effective in reducing agitation in patients with dementia, while another study proved that music therapy is a safe and effective method for treating agitation and anxiety in moderately severe and severe dementia.
Other research studied the effect of music therapy on wandering behaviour that is seen in patients with dementia. Participants were randomly assigned to either mostly music attention or mostly reading attention groups. Results indicated that participants remained seated or in close proximity to the session area longer for music sessions than for reading sessions under all conditions. Another study suggested a beneficial effect of cognition using a music-based exercise programme in a group of patients with moderate to severe dementia. Furthermore, yet another study showed that Music therapy was effective in reducing Behavioral and Psychological Symptoms in patients with moderate-severe dementia.
Several literature reviews were also conducted that came to a similar conclusion about the effectiveness of music therapy in treating the different symptoms that occur in dementia. One such review of nursing literature using the online databases CINAHL, PsycINFO and MEDLINE concluded that the majority of these studies reported that music therapy influenced the behaviour of older people with dementia in a positive way by reducing levels of agitation. The research further identified a positive increase in participants' mood and socialization skills, with care givers having a significant role to play in the use of music therapy in care of the elderly nursing.
Another qualitative review updated a recent qualitative review of literature in the area of music/music therapy and dementias published since 1985 which suggested that music/music therapy is an effective intervention for maintaining and improving active involvement, social, emotional and cognitive skills, and for decreasing behavioral problems of individuals with dementias.
The role of the caregiver, whether he/she is a family member or not, is crucial to the health and wellbeing of the patient. The caregivers carry the entire responsibility of the patient's everyday activities and general welfare. As dementia involves memory loss, decrease in problem solving skills, and communication difficulties, the caregiver's job requires tremendous amount of patience and dedication. Conflict and tension between patients and caregivers can cause extreme stress to both parties. Hence, the relationship between patients and their care givers has been given importance when conducting research on patients with dementia.
Since the caregiver's role is so important, their appraisal of the patient's disease and their improvement in behavior is important as well, as they are the ones that primarily observe their behavior and interact with them. A paper that presented the results of a pilot project by a private institution in Spain concluded, through a satisfaction questionnaire filled by the caregivers, that music therapy improved functioning in the patients' social and emotional areas of functioning. Another study demonstrated the positive effects of a] background music and b] caregiver singing to and/or with the patient during morning care sessions on the body posture and sensory awareness of the patient. Furthermore, patients appeared to regain skills necessary for daily living, and demonstrated that they could perform tasks with intention, purpose, and competence. Caregiver singing, in particular, was very effective at drawing out capabilities that appeared to be lost in these patients. In addition, caregiver singing elicited a larger degree of mutuality in the interaction between patient and caregiver than was seen with background music.
Research has also examined the positive effects of caregiver-implemented music applications on engagement with their care receiver. The study examined a series of sessions, where a music therapist trained and cued the caregivers to implement a music application of choice. The authors conclude that music therapy applications are effective in increasing mutual engagement in care giving and care receiving couples with dementia, and that caregivers can effectively facilitate the engagement using music.
All of these studies on music therapy and its effectiveness in improving or even treating some of the many negative effects of dementia on the mind and body of the patient, although successful, are still not substantially sufficient for it to be established and practiced widely. Therefore, there is a need for more research using standard procedures. Nevertheless, the efforts of all the researchers bring the promise of hope that music and dance therapy can someday help the patients not only survive the disease, but also live a fulfilling life in spite of it.
Come. Drum. Be One.
By Prarthana Sham and Varun Venkit
It took me some time to recollect my thoughts and proceed with the conversation.
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