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EDITORIAL BOARD Irene Anderson, Principal Lecturer and Reader in Learning and Teaching in Healthcare Practice, University of Hertfordshire Russell Ashmore, Senior Lecturer in Mental Health Nursing, Sheffield Hallam University Steve Ashurst, Critical Care Nurse Lecturer, Maelor Hospital, Wrexham Christopher Barber, Freelance Lecturer and Writer Dimitri Beeckman, Professor of Skin Integrity and Clinical Nursing, Ghent University, Belgium Jacqueline Boulton, Lecturer in Adult Nursing, Faculty Lead for student mobility, electives and global health, Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery & Palliative Care, King’s College London Beverley Brathwaite, visiting senior lecturer, Middlesex University Nicholas Castle, Head of Professions/ Assistant Executive Director, Hamad Medical Corporation Ambulance Service, Qatar Jothi Clara J Micheal, Group Director – Nursing, Global Hospitals Group, India Emma Collins, Nurse Consultant, Sexual Health In Plymouth, University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust Alison Coull, Lecturer at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh Angela Grainger, Senior Lecturer, BPP University Michelle Grainger, Ward Manager, Moseley Hall Hospital, Birmingham Barry Hill, Programme Leader and Senior Lecturer, Northumbria University Helen Holder, Senior Lecturer, Nursing Studies, Birmingham City University Mina Karamshi, Specialist Sister in Radiology, Royal Free Hospital, Hampstead Jacqueline Leigh, Professor Nurse Education Practice School Health & Society, University of Salford Joanne McPeake, Acute Specialist Nurse/ Senior Staff Nurse in Critical Care; Honorary Lecturer/Practitioner in Critical Care, University of Glasgow John McKinnon, Senior Lecturer, School of Health and Social Care, University of Lincoln Aby Mitchell, Senior Lecturer Adult Nursing, University of West London Joy Notter, Professor, Birmingham City University & Saxion University of Applied Science, Netherlands Hilary Paniagua, Principal Lecturer/Head of Doctoral Studies Faculty of Health & Well Being at the University of Wolverhampton Ian Peate, Director of Studies, Head of School, Gibraltar Health Authority Kendra Schneller, Nurse Practitioner, Health Inclusion Team – Vulnerable Adults and Prevention Services, Guy’s & St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust John Tingle, Lecturer in Law, Birmingham Law School, University of Birmingham Geoffrey Walker, Matron for Medicine, Cardiology and Specialist Nursing Services Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust Jamie Waterall, Deputy Chief Public Health Nurse, Office for Health Improvement & Disparities; Honorary Professor, University of Nottingham Jo Wilson, Director, Wilson Healthcare Services, Newcastle Cate Wood, Research Fellow, Oxford Brookes University.

Personalised meaningful music for people with dementia

Dean McShane, Senior Mental Health Lecturer, School of Nursing and Allied Health, Liverpool John Moores University (

Music plays such an important role in our lives. It is a powerful medium that lights up the brain like a firework display as soon as it hits the ear, stimulating many parts of the brain at once.We all have those songs in our lives that mean something to us, our ‘Desert Island Discs’ or our soundtrack to the key events of our lives. Research has found that music has many benefits for our mental health and wellbeing.We know how music can lift our mood.This is due to the release of dopamine, which can rise by as much as 9% when we play a song that we enjoy (Salimpoor et al, 2011). Music as a therapy can also help with symptoms of depression (Maratos et al, 2008) and can reduce the symptoms of anxiety (Gutiérrez and Camarena, 2015)

In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) produced a report that highlighted the benefits of music for people living with dementia.These included a reduction in anxiety and depression, a reduction in agitation or behavioural issues, and beneficial effects on speech, verbal fluency and autobiographical memory.With these positive effects came the all-important decrease in the use of antipsychotic medication (Fancourt and Finn, 2019).

Personalised meaningful music is key in this instance.This is music that has been a part of a person’s life, based on personal preference (Gerdner, 1992). If a person living with dementia is unable to communicate personal preference, then selections can be made by a knowledgeable family member or discovered through ‘musical detective skills’. Personalised meaningful music can help improve speech content and fluency, along with decreasing stress hormones and improving overall wellbeing in people with dementia (Brotons and Koger, 2000).

UK-based charity ‘Playlist for Life’ has a mission that every person living with dementia should have their own personalised playlist of ‘meaningful music’. Music offers a potential lifeline for people with dementia, their carers and loved ones, with far more benefits than other interventions, such as chemical interventions, which often come with negative impacts such as side-effects. A systematic review concluded that, of all the non-

pharmacological interventions used in dementia, music therapy has convincing evidence of effectiveness in reducing both the behavioural and psychological symptoms (Abraha et al, 2017).

Gerdner (1992) systematically investigated the use of personalised meaningful music as an intervention for agitation in people with dementia, finding a visible reduction in agitation when listening to the music and in the hour following this intervention.

Anxiety is closely related to agitation.Without intervention, anxiety can very quickly escalate to agitation. It is recommended that healthcare staff, carers or loved ones use music playlists as a form of therapeutic scheduling, such as before noted periods of distress, before difficult times or activities.This significantly lowers anxiety levels (Gerdner, 1992).

Creating a playlist with someone living with dementia is a valuable experience.You should look for the music that is personal and evokes fond memories or positive emotional reactions. It should include the tunes that give a ‘flashback feeling’ whenever they hear them. Start with the ‘memory bump’, songs they would have listened to between ages 10 and 30 (psychologists have proven that we create more memories between these ages). Playlist for Life has many free resources on creating a playlist, help finding the tracks, best ways to listen and when to make the most of music (https:// BJN

Abraha I, Rimland JM,Trotta FM et al. Systematic review of systematic reviews of non-pharmacological interventions to treat behavioural disturbances in older patients with dementia. BMJ Open. 2017;7(3):e012759. Brotons M, Koger SM.The impact of music therapy on language functioning in dementia. J Music Ther. 2000;37(3):183-195. https:// Fancourt D, Finn S;World Health Organization.What is the evidence on the role of the arts in improving health and well-being? 2019. (accessed 30 August 2022) Gerdner LA.The effects of individualized music on elderly clients who are confused and agitated. Unpublished Master’s thesis, Iowa City (IA):University of Iowa; 1992 Gutiérrez EOF, Camarena VAT. Music therapy in generalized anxiety disorder. The Arts in Psychotherapy. 2015;44:19-24. https://doi. org/10.1016/j.aip.2015.02.003 Maratos AS,Gold C,Wang X,Crawford MJ.Music therapy for depression.

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008;(1):CD004517. https://doi. org/10.1002/14651858.CD004517.pub2 Salimpoor VN, Benovoy M, Larcher K, Dagher A, Zatorre RJ.

Anatomically distinct dopamine release during anticipation and experience of peak emotion to music. Nat Neurosci. 2011;14(2):257-262.


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British Journal of Nursing, 2022, Vol 31, No 16

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