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


Music can facilitate mirroring and has been shown to offer a fundamental, emotion-based connection (Pace, Treloar, & Scott, 2011). Music interventions have also been found to decrease stress hormones (Spintge, 2000), increase relaxation and emotional wellbeing (Brotons & Koger, 2000), provide a sense of safety, and reduce anxiety (van der Steen et al., 2018). Other research has shown that singing groups can enhance a sense of equality for people with dementia and their carers (Unadkat, Camic, & Vella-Burrows, 2017) and that regular musical activities can have long-term cognitive, emotional, and social benefits for people with mild/moderate dementia (Sarkamo et al., 2014).

Group music interventions, specifically, can help prevent social isolation by encouraging social interaction and communication of feelings and ideas (Aldridge, 1996). According to van der Steen and colleagues (2018) group music interventions provide opportunities to make connections with other people through nonverbal musical communication, which may help people cope with their illness and build relationships. Most of the studies looking at group music have, however, focused on measuring biological, psychological, and cognitive symptoms using quantitative analysis rather than looking at relational, communicative, and other positive responses to music (Dowson, McDermott, & Schneider, 2019).