Music therapy for dementia

Led by Professor Felicity Baker, researchers at the Faculty of Fine Arts and Music have been investigating the impact of home-based caregiver-delivered music and reading interventions for people with dementia.

The umbrella term for conditions with a severe decline in brain function, dementia affects an estimated 50 million people worldwide - a number expected to rise to 130 million by 2050.

Thanks to the work of Professor Baker and her team, music therapy interventions are showing promising results in alleviating the distressing behavioural and emotional symptoms of dementia.

Sharing this work with carers of dementia patients - often family members - has helped to enhance the experience of caring, and allows carers and people living with dementia to share in the joy that music engagement brings to their lives.

Homeside, launched in 2019 extended the music intervention program into the homes of dementia patients, training family carers to use music activities strategically and effectively to manage behavioural and psychological symptoms of people living with dementia.

That same year, over $90,000 was raised through the University of Melbourne's end of year appeal to support the development of a training app for carers designed to help use music more intentionally with their loved ones.

Of the 369 donors, 65% were inspired by the Music Therapy for Dementia appeal to make their first-ever donation to the University.

Together, these donors helped to lay the groundwork for the development of the Music Attuned Technology for Care via eHealth - MATCH - app, which has now attracted a further $2 million in funding through Australia's Medical Research Future Fund.

The first in-home trials of MATCH are planned for January 2022, further empowering caregivers to explore non-pharmaceutical approaches to managing dementia.

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