The effects of singing in a choir compared with participating in a reminiscence group on reducing depression in people with dementia

by Kirstin Robertson-Gillam

Institution: University of Western Sydney
Year: 2008
Keywords: M.Arts (Hons.); depression, mental; treatment; dementia; patients; care; older people; mental health; music therapy
Record ID: 1055663
Full text PDF: http://handle.uws.edu.au:8081/1959.7/35810


Purpose: To determine whether choir singing compared to reminiscence could reduce depression in people with dementia. Methods: A randomised controlled mixed methods trial was conducted with residents of an aged care facility between May and August 2007. Qualitative data was examined for related themes which enhanced the quantitative analysis. There were 41 participants (age range: 74-93 years) all with a medical diagnosis of dementia. Informed consent and ethical approval was obtained. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups: Choir Therapy, Reminiscence Therapy or Control Group. The study was single blind as the researcher conducted the sessions with research assistants. Fifteen sessions of choir and reminiscence therapies were conducted twice weekly. Symptoms of depression were measured before and after the treatments using the Cornell Scale for Depression in Dementia. The Mini Mental State Examination was used to gauge the levels of cognitive functioning at baseline. Participants’ responses to the therapy sessions were concurrently collected and analysed for related themes as qualitative data. Results: Average depression scores declined significantly for all groups over time. When the choir group was compared with the control group over time, there was a significant difference (p= 0.027), indicating that the choir group was more effective in reducing depression over time. The reminiscence group scores were also compared with the control group scores over time, revealing a reduction in depression which was less significant than the choir group scores (p = 0.111). Themes from the qualitative data showed improvements in the following areas: safety and security needs; increased communication and social interaction; increased positive moods; increased motivation; and, expanded attention spans. Conclusion: All three groups showed decreased depression with the greatest fall in the choir group. This indicated that choir when compared to reminiscence has higher efficacy in mitigating symptoms of depression in people with dementia. Both therapies were shown to be effective and safe.