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Music in Dementia Care: Increased Understanding Through Mixed Research Methods

Author(s): Mariko Hara

Journal: Music and Arts in Action
ISSN 1754-7105

Volume: 3;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 34;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Keywords: music | care | dementia | ethnographic research | network | community

Over the past decade there has been an increased interest in the wide variety of issues involved in the care of individuals with dementia. One particular area of research is the effect of music on those with dementia, commonly studied through the perspectives of neuroscience and (the more applied) music therapy. There is, however, a black box common to both these fields: music is seen as an input and its effect as a simple output. In treating the human (brain) as merely an object to stimulate with music or sound, the socio-cultural context of musical interaction is omitted from the analysis. This article discusses the employment of mixed research methods adapted specifically to explore the use of music in dementia care and to open this black box. In particular, this article explores the use of ethnographic participant observations and semi-structured interviews with individuals with dementia, their families/carers and (volunteer) staff of Singing for the Brain (SFTB) in a British town. The article concludes with a discussion of the preliminary themes generated by this mixed-methods approach (such as the importance of ‘relationships’), and the importance of examining music as a ‘catalyst’ in building relationships. Although the issues examined in this article are specific to dementia, similar sensitive issues may be found in research on health and other creative (therapeutic) activities for people with dementia.
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