An Exploratory Essay

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Casey J. Lindecrantz

Mrs. Shay

Composition I

April 8th, 2013

Dementia and Music Therapy’s Relationship to the Improvement of Dementia Patients

As dementia becomes a more pressing issue, scientists are trying to find a cure for a currently incurable disease. Dementia is a neurological disorder where the afflicted person partially or completely loses her mental ability, leaving her confused and potentially violent. While this definition of the disorder gives a basic understanding of what Dementia is, it should be noted that Dementia is an umbrella term for the many different forms of the disorder, some of the different forms include Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s Disease. Alzheimer’s Disease, the first reported case of any form of Dementia, comes from the psychiatrist Alois Alzheimer in late 1906 when he described Auguste “from Frankfurt who had shown progressive cognitive impairment, focal symptoms, hallucinations, delusions, and psychosocial incompetence” (Gerbaldo, Maurer and Volk 1546). While drug therapies are the focus of most scientists, they are beginning to find that music therapy is a promising candidate as treatment for dementia.

The first article I looked at was entitled “Dementia” by L.A. Rasar and was published on her own personal website for the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire which is where she is a professor of music therapy. Rasar first starts by focusing on what dementia is and how it affects the human mind over time. Some of the primary goals that are attempted to be fulfilled by the music therapist are “maximizing independent functioning; maintaining self-esteem; developing meaningful activities; creating new living experiences; and providing an acceptable energy outlet” (Rasar). She gives examples and models as to how these goals can be fulfilled, many them taking place in the morning or midday, and many of these models are done in the group setting. When Rasar talks about the group setting, rather than a one-on-one basis, she brings up how it is more viable because of the tangibility and ease of working with a group. I had not thought of this before because I was always under the impression that Dementia patients were easily distracted, so a group setting would make the patients detract from the main purpose of the therapy. Something that I never realized before this point was that there is a specific science to the songs that are played during therapy sessions; there is a theme for each song(s) which usually relates to a time in the past or an action like going home or dancing. I do agree with this article in that it is not biased towards music therapy being used, but rather that this article is informative on what music therapy is and how it is used. Something that this article has really helped narrow down for me is how music therapy is used, but now I am interested in the results of the usage of music therapy in Dementia patients.

The next article I looked at came to an interesting conclusion. In their article, “Is Music Therapy an Effective Intervention for Dementia?” which is published in the Journal of Music Therapy, Brotons, Chapin, and Koger looked not only to find what the source of variability was (some patients’ musical therapies were not as successful), but they also looked to “delineate the most effective techniques” (2). While their views did remain unbiased throughout, the ultimate goal of their article was to prove the effectiveness of music therapy on Dementia patients; however, they were unable to come to a definitive conclusion even though the data they provide does strongly suggest that music therapy is an effective treatment. I feel that the reason for their inconclusiveness is that while, yes, their research did yield almost entirely positive results, these results were for the most part, inconsistent. It does make it hard for me to refute cold hard facts and information, but I do feel that with more research Brotons, Chapin, and...
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