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Researchers analyse effects of personal music to dementia patients in hospitals

23 November 2015

Anna Paisley

Anna Paisley

Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) researchers are assessing the efficacy of personalised music playlists as an intervention for dementia in acute care environments.

PhD research student Anna Paisley will spend six months working with patients from Queen Margaret Hospital and Victoria Hospital in Fife, as well as family members and dementia nursing professionals, to establish if music familiar to people with dementia helps to reduce anxiety from being in an unfamiliar environment.

There are 90,000 people with dementia in Scotland, with over 63 per cent of those living at home. Coming into hospital can be an unsettling experience for people with dementia. The unfamiliar environment, people and routines can lead to stress and distress for the individual which can, in turn, be difficult to manage.

The first stage pilot will assess the impact of personalised music on the patients’ quality of life, the impact on the approach staff and carers have towards the patients, and the effects of the intervention on the stress levels of healthcare professionals working with dementia patients.

Anna said: “I believe this is the first mixed-methods project of this type in Scotland. As it is being led by Alzheimer Scotland Dementia Nurse Consultant Helen Skinner and other health professionals, if it is an effective intervention, it will be more sustainable for the future. It also supports the Scottish Government’s emphasis on delivering a range of non-pharmacological therapeutic interventions.”

The project will also consider the effectiveness of technology required for providing the playlists.

In addition to her PhD, Anna is Research Assistant on an Edinburgh and Lothian Health Foundation project to create a personalised music playlist app for charity Playlist for Life, which aims to ensure all those living with dementia have access to personally meaningful music and its benefits.

The Playlist for Life charity was founded by GCU Honorary Graduate Dr Sally Magnusson in 2013 after observing the effect of personalised music on her mother.

The development of the app, evidenced by research with patients, is led by Dr Gianna Cassidy and Dr Helen Mason and is also funded by the Gordon and Ena Baxter Foundation and Nesta. The project will ensure the app is built upon a robust body of research identifying the needs of those living with dementia in order to co-design and trial the app in communities and institutions across the UK.