Use of music to decrease aggressive behaviors in people with dementia

J Gerontol Nurs. 1998 Jul;24(7):10-7. doi: 10.3928/0098-9134-19980701-05.


The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of recorded, preferred music in decreasing occurrences of aggressive behavior among individuals with Alzheimer's type dementia during bathing episodes. Eighteen older adults, age 55 to 95, with severe levels of cognitive impairment, participated in the study. They were randomly scheduled for observation during bath time under either a control (no music) condition or an experimental condition in which recorded selections of preferred music were played via audiotape recorder during the bathing episode. Following a 2-week (10 episode) observation period, conditions were reversed. A total of 20 observations were recorded for each individual. Results indicated that during the music condition, decreases occurred in 12 of 15 identified aggressive behaviors. Decreases were significant (p < 0.05) for the total number of observed behaviors and for hitting behaviors. During the music condition, caregivers frequently reported improved affect and a general increase in cooperation with the bathing task. The implications of these findings for improving the overall quality of care for severely cognitively impaired older adults are discussed.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aggression / psychology*
  • Alzheimer Disease / nursing
  • Alzheimer Disease / psychology*
  • Female
  • Geriatric Nursing / methods
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Status Schedule
  • Middle Aged
  • Music Therapy / methods*