'Music First': An Alternative or Adjunct to Psychotropic Medications for the Behavioral and Psychological Symptoms of Dementia

Dane L. Shiltz
Tara T. Lineweaver
Tim Brimmer
Alex C. Cairns
Danielle S. Halcomb
Jacqueline Juett
Laura Beer
Donald P. Hay
John Plewes

Abstract

Existing research has primarily evaluated music therapy (MT) as a means of reducing the negative affect, behavioral, and/or cognitive symptoms of dementia. Music listening (ML), on the other hand, offers a less-explored, potentially equivalent alternative to MT and may further reduce exposure to potentially harmful psychotropic medications traditionally used to manage negative behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD). This 5-month prospective, naturalistic, interprofessional, single-center extended care facility study compared usual care (45 residents) and usual care combined with at least thrice weekly personalized ML sessions (47 residents) to determine the influence of ML. Agitation decreased for all participants (p < .001), and the ML residents receiving antipsychotic medications at baseline experienced agitation levels similar to both the usual care group and the ML patients who were not prescribed antipsychotics (p < .05 for medication × ML interaction). No significant changes in psychotropic medication exposure occurred. This experimental study supports ML as an adjunct to pharmacological approaches to treating agitation in older adults with dementia living in long-term care facilities. It also highlights the need for additional research focused on how individualized music programs affect doses and frequencies of antipsychotic medications and their associated risk of death and cerebrovascular events in this population. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)