Background: Music therapy is a potential non-pharmacological treatment for the behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia, but although some studies have found it to be helpful, most are small and uncontrolled.
Methods: This case-control study was carried out by qualified music therapists in two nursing homes and two psychogeriatric wards. The participants were 38 patients with moderate or severe Alzheimer's disease (AD) assigned randomly to a music therapy group and a control group.
Results: The study showed a significant reduction in activity disturbances in the music therapy group during a 6-week period measured with the Behavior Pathology in Alzheimer's Disease Rating Scale (BEHAVE-AD). There was also a significant reduction in the sum of scores of activity disturbances, aggressiveness and anxiety. Other symptoms rated by subscales of the BEHAVE-AD did not decrease significantly. Four weeks later the effects had mostly disappeared.
Conclusions: Music therapy is a safe and effective method for treating agitation and anxiety in moderately severe and severe AD. This is in line with the results of some non-controlled studies on music therapy in dementia.