Group music therapy to help people with Alzheimer’s

Recently, printed this story about a research study conducted in Israel where group music therapy was used to promote communication in people with Alzheimer’s. When I worked on Memory Care units, I often provided group music therapy sessions to people with Alzheimer’s. In one particular group, I worked with clients with varying stages of dementia. I assessed each person on the unit that came to the group by reviewing the medical chart and then observing and interacting with them in the group. I chose songs that were relevant to the group participants (mostly gospel songs, for this particular group) and gave simple instructions for playing the percussion instruments I handed out (hand drums, shakers, wood blocks, etc.).

What I noticed during the session was that some participants would sing with me, some would play instruments, some would sit and listen instead of wandering, some would interact with me, some would interact with their peers, some would stay for a short while and then leave or wander in and out. Additionally, staff would sometimes come into the room and maybe observe or participate for a little while. For the time that the music was playing, the participants were engaged in making music, which is a meaningful and healthy behavior.