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


According to Ridder and Gummesen (2015), people with dementia, particularly those who may have difficulty with verbal communication, may be at increased risk of social isolation and perceived as noncommunicative or even not existing. Social bonding is built upon communication and it is not just a linguistic message that is exchanged within an interaction but also the equally important paralinguistic and nonverbal messages (Ridder, 2003). Gesture, prosody and exaggerated expression offer the cues within an interaction that help turn-taking take place for people with severe communication difficulties (Holck, 2004) and therefore are the essential building blocks to creating a relationship.

A recognition of the impact of social isolation on people with dementia has resulted in the development of several communication techniques that are aimed at reducing social isolation through focusing on paralinguistic and nonverbal aspects such as "adaptive interaction" (Ellis & Astell, 2017). Adaptive interaction is based on "intensive interaction" (Nind & Hewett, 2012) and as a central component it uses the process of "mirroring," where any communication attempts are reflected back to the person initiating them in order to bridge communication difficulties (Henwood & Ellis, 2015).