Using Music to Develop a Multisensory Communicative Environment for People With Late-Stage Dementia

Amy Clare, DClinPsych; Paul M. Camic, PhD; Sebastian J. Crutch, PhD; Julian West, BA; Emma Harding, Bsc; Emilie Brotherhood, Msc


Gerontologist. 2020;60(6):1115-1125. 

In This Article


This study lent support to the notion that people with advanced dementias were active communicators in a variety of verbal and nonverbal ways within a multisensory live music-based communicative environment. When these communicative actions were noticed and responded to through the use of careful observation by the musicians, it led to a positive social interaction taking place through the use of mirroring, turn taking, and humor. In this way, people with dementia were given the opportunity to make a choice as to how to participate and to influence the creation of the music and the "musical conversation"; by doing so people with dementia experienced agency. The developing grounded theory of a multisensory communicative environment through music for people with late-stage dementia supports relational theories of dementia care (e.g., Nolan et al., 2004).