A qualitative systematic review of the experiences of sharing music for people living with dementia and their family care partners: the thread of connection


Arts & Health




BACKGROUND: There is a global need for interventions that support the wellbeing of people living with dementia and their family care partners. Studies show that shared musical activities may achieve this. Our systematic review aimed to synthesise existing research exploring dyads' experiences of shared musical activities across a range of contexts. METHOD: From 31 October 2020 we searched PubMed, PsycInfo, CINAHL Complete, EMBASE, RILM, Web of Science Core Collection, Google Scholar and ProQuest Dissertations & Theses for studies published up to 14 April 2021, and hand searched five music therapy journals plus citation lists. Thirteen qualitative studies reporting on dyads' experiences and perspectives of shared musical activities across a range of settings were included. Studies with mixed populations or mixed modality interventions were excluded. We analysed the final studies using thematic synthesis, engaging in reflective discussions and reflexivity throughout. The quality of included studies was assessed using the CASP qualitative checklist. This study is registered on PROSPERO: CRD42020169360. RESULTS: Six themes were identified from 13 studies: 1) shared musical activities support wellbeing for people living with dementia, 2) music groups become ecological systems, 3) shared musical activities are experienced differently over time, 4) shared musical activities are experienced by me and as we, 5) music is a supportive structure, and 6) the thread of connection (an overarching theme). A GRADE-CERQual assessment found moderate to high confidence in these findings. Findings informed the development of the Contextual Connection Model of Health Musicking. CONCLUSION: Shared musical activities foster experiences of connection for people living with dementia and their family care partners. Experiences of connection are supported through professional facilitation and the structural aspects of music, and are influenced by the setting and changes over time. These experiences of connection play a central role in supporting dyadic and individual wellbeing. These findings are largely relevant to a western cultural context; future research should seek to include more diverse cultural experiences.

Music and Health Institute Terms

Neurodegenerative Disorders; Alzheimer's and Related Dementias; Wellness and Well-Being; Caregivers; Music Therapy; Recreative Music Methods; Community Music Experience

Indexed Terms

dementia; Dementia; Caregivers; family care partners; qualitative evidence synthesis; thematic synthesis

Study Type

Systematic Review; Qualitative Methods

PubMed ID


Document Type