Background: Agitated behavior is a widespread problem that adversely affects the health of nursing home residents and increases the cost of their care.
Objective: To examine whether modifying environmental stimuli by the use of calming music and hand massage affects agitated behavior in persons with dementia.
Method: A four group, repeated measures experimental design was used to test the effect of a 10-minute exposure to either calming music, hand massage, or calming music and hand massage simultaneously, or no intervention (control) on the frequency and type of agitated behaviors in nursing home residents with dementia (N = 68). A modified version of the Cohen-Mansfield Agitation Inventory was used to record agitated behaviors.
Results: Each of the experimental interventions reduced agitation more than no intervention. The benefit was sustained and increased up to one hour following the intervention (F = 6.47, p<.01). The increase in benefit over time was similar for each intervention group. When types of agitated behaviors were examined separately, none of the interventions significantly reduced physically aggressive behaviors (F = 1.93, p=.09), while physically nonaggressive behaviors decreased during each of the interventions (F = 3.78, p< 01). No additive benefit resulted from simultaneous exposure to calming music and hand massage. At one hour following any intervention, verbally agitated behavior decreased more than no intervention.
Conclusion: Calming music and hand massage alter the immediate environment of agitated nursing home residents to a calm structured surrounding, offsetting disturbing stimuli, but no additive benefit was found by combining interventions simultaneously.