Music prescribed as medicine in care homes to help dementia sufferers

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A playlist of festive songs has been selected using artificial intelligence to mitigate the effects of sundowning – outbursts of anger and irritation which occur in the evening.

The idea is now being piloted in a care home after trials suggested it reduced the heart rate in anxious dementia sufferers by up to a quarter.

The music is being made available free to families and care providers at what can be a lonely time of year.

The playlist includes timeless classics like O Holy Night by Nat King Cole, When A Child Is Born by Johnny Mathis and Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree by Brenda Lee.

The first residential home to trial the music therapy is Orchard Court Care Home in Brigg, Lincolnshire.

Manager Tracy Mussett said: “We know how beneficial playing music in the home is to residents’ wellbeing. It can prompt memories of happier times and make them feel at ease. We’ve started playing the Christmas playlist to our residents and we’ve visibly seen it make a real difference to them.”

MediMusic, the British company behind the tech, claims it could revolutionise the treatment of brain wasting diseases.

Founder Gary Jones said: “We’ve managed to digitally fingerprint the DNA of music so we can deliver the right songs as medicine to ease anxiety and stress. You could say a musical pharmaceutical. Dispensing music as medicine is going to revolutionise the treatment of people in pain and stress.”

The brain responds to music more than any other stimulus, scientists have found.

The app uses the patient’s age, gender, nationality and ethnicity and, based on sociological and psychological science, compiles a 20-minute playlist of soothing music.

The running order is designed to reduce heart rate and stress hormones. Each chosen track is optimised to reduce anxiety, stress or pain.

The music is played through earphones and the MediMusic app on a smartphone, with a heart rate monitor worn on the wrist.

Initial clinical trials at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust found a 25 percent reduction in heart rate in patients with dementia.

The trust’s Dr Jacqueline Twamley said: “Prescribing music as medicine could revolutionise the treatment of dementia.”

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