"Our findings suggest that musical leisure activities could be easily applied and widely used in dementia care and rehabilitation." Dr. Teppo Särkämö, lead author from the University of Helsinki, wrote in the journal.
The research involved 89 pairs of patients with mild to moderate dementia and their caregivers, who were randomly assigned to one of three groups. For 10 weeks, one group focused on singing, one on music listening and the third, the control, received only standard care.
Assessments taken 9 months prior to the intervention allowed the researchers to determine that the musical activities enhanced memory, abilities to focus and manage several tasks at the same time, orientation and mood in the groups that received musical coaching, compared with the standard care group.
The research found that singing most benefited patients in the early stages of dementia who were less than 80-years-old, and music listening most benefited those in the later stages. Singing and music listening helped both groups alleviate depression, but was especially beneficial to decrease depression in those with mild, Alzheimer-type dementia. The musical background of the person with dementia did not influence the study results.
According to the Alzheimer's Association, Kentucky has over 68,000 with Alzheimers disease and says that this number will climb to 86,000 by 2025.
"Given the increasing global prevalence and burden of dementia and the limited resources in public health care for persons with dementia and their family caregivers it is important to find alternative ways to maintain and stimulate cognitive, emotional and social well-being in this population," Särkämö said. "Especially stimulating and engaging activities, such as singing, seem to be very promising for maintaining memory functioning in the early stages of dementia."