Feasibility of Light and Music Therapy in the Elderly for the Prevention of Hospital-Associated Delirium

R I Med J (2013). 2023 May 1;106(4):35-39.


Hospital-associated delirium is common in older adults, especially those with dementia, and is associated with high morbidity and mortality. We performed a feasibility study in the emergency department (ED) to examine the effect of light and/or music on the incidence of hospital- associated delirium. Patients aged ≥ 65 who presented to the ED and tested positive for cognitive impairment were enrolled in the study (n = 133). Patients were randomized to one of four treatment arms: music, light, music and light, and usual care. They received the intervention during their ED stay. In the control group, 7/32 patients developed delirium, while in the music-only group, 2/33 patients developed delirium (RR 0.27, 95% CI 0.06-1.23), and in the light-only group (RR 0.41, 95% CI 0.12-1.46), 3/33 patients developed delirium. In the music + light group, 8/35 patients developed delirium (RR 1.04, 95% CI 0.42--2.55). Providing music therapy and bright light therapy to ED patients was shown to be feasible. Although this small pilot study did not reach statistical significance, there was a trend towards less delirium in the music-only and light-only groups. This study lays the groundwork for future investigation into the efficacy of these interventions.

Keywords: delirium; dementia; emergency department; geriatrics; quality improvement.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Delirium* / prevention & control
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Music Therapy*
  • Pilot Projects