Music in dementia care

Elderly man dancing while listening to music

Sandra Garrido, funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia, investigated the effect of music on people with dementia in aged care facilities and home-based care with a project commencing in 2016. She examined how music could be used as a first line treatment for symptoms of dementia, in standardised, yet individually tailored ways. Dr Garrido led a team to investigate how people’s individual symptoms might be interacting with different types of music and musical features, such as the tempo, or the lyrics, or the mode. This research culminated in the development of a set of evidence-based guidelines, with demonstrated benefits in controlled testing. The guidelines assist care staff and families of people with dementia to use and select music effectively by helping them to identify individuals who might be vulnerable to negative responses to music, and teaching carers how to strategically select music to support people living with dementia who are experiencing changes in behaviour.

With funding from the Dementia Australia Research Foundation and in collaboration with HammondCare and the Dementia Centre, these guidelines have now been transformed into a short, online training course for caregivers and a more extensive alternative credential from Western Sydney University. All of these resources can be accessed at The evidence-based guidelines form part of the toolkit that the Dementia Centre consultants use in working with around 90% of the aged facilities in Australia to help them manage changes in behaviour in people living with dementia. In short, they are contributing to change in the ways care staff manage changes in behaviour in people living with dementia, and helping care providers to meet new standards set for the industry since the recent Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.