Cognitive, Functional and Narrative Improvements After Individualized Singing Interventions In Dementia Patients

Linda E. Maguire

Major Professor: Gary L. Kreps, PhD, Department of Communication

Committee Members: Katherine E. Rowan, Kevin B. Wright, Jane M. Flinn

Northeast Module, #107
April 08, 2020, 01:00 PM to 02:30 PM


Loss of cognitive, functional and narrative abilities is often a telltale indication of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia in elderly, while the ability to participate in singing and recall of both words and tunes remains well into latest stages of the disease, even as all other memory systems progressively deteriorate. Music aptitude and music appreciation are known to be among the last remaining abilities in dementia sufferers and even remain robust throughout diseased-affected elderly life. This study examined changes in cognitive, functional and narrative outcomes in elderly participants with dementia before, during and after a 5-week series of individualized singing sessions.  Local assisted living facilities provided dementia participants as Singers and Controls where cognitive measures of Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) and a Revised Mini-Mental State Examination (R-MMSE), functional measures of Clock Drawing (CD) and Revised Clock Drawing (R-CDD), verbal fluency measures of Narrative (NARR) and Complete Sentences (CS), as well as quality of life and life satisfaction using the Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS) were collected and analyzed. Qualitative analysis of singing participation (SingPar) used a 0-5 rating scale to delineated high and low participation in the singing of 20 treatment songs. NARR and CS measures were taken after conditions of silence, familiar verse and less familiar verses of the patriotic song, “America, the Beautiful.” Four other themed songs matched to themes of Romance, Folk, Nature and Spiritual-Meditative were also measured for NARR and CS (but not in this report).  Each song was tailored to participants using most comfortable tonal key (best vocal range) and manageable tempo (contingent on physical ability) for each individual participant. Statistical analyses using ANOVA showed significant improvements in Singers in all measures compared to Non-Singers and Controls. Music remains useful, yet enigmatic, regarding its success as a clinical tool with affected elderly populations. The findings from this study demystify and formulate several working elements of singing in elderly dementia sufferers.

            Keywords: Music, Dementia, Cognition, Singing, Speech