MP3 players offer soothing sounds for dementia patients

21 October 2021

MP3 players offer soothing sounds for dementia patients
For people with dementia, a stay in hospital can be a distressing experience. An unfamiliar, sometimes hectic environment, coupled with undergoing medical treatment often causes agitation which can even make their condition worse.

Now, thanks to a grant from Imperial Health Charity, MP3 players are giving patients a chance to tune out the stresses of the hospital with personalised music playlists that have been a big hit on the wards.

Jo James, Lead Nurse for Dementia at the Trust, said: “We’ve found that patients with dementia are calmer, more alert and able to communicate with staff if they have been listening to music which resonates personally with them.”

In a survey of patients carried out by staff, 84% said that that they feel noticeably better listening to music or radio that they like.

Jo said: “One of our patients loves Elvis and so we made a special playlist for him. He listened to it continuously and now one year later he still asks for it whenever he’s in hospital.

“We had another patient who would not eat and was very distressed. He spoke no English and it was a challenge to communicate with him. As he was religious, we gave him Quranic chants and he became much calmer and started eating again.”

"Patients with dementia are calmer, more alert and able to communicate with staff if they have been listening to music.”

Jo James, Lead Nurse for Dementia at the Trust

The project has been such a success that several patients’ families have even bought the same kit for them to use at home.

The link between music and better health outcomes for patients with dementia isn’t a new one. A recent study carried out by NHS Fife found that using music as a distraction technique significantly reduced levels of agitation and led to them becoming markedly less stressed during clinical procedures in 96% of cases.

Staff had previously trialled using CD players on the ward but found that this gave patients no choice as to whether they wanted to listen to music or not and didn’t account for personal taste.

Funding from the charity’s Small Grants programme enabled the Dementia Care Team to purchase 32 MP3 players, USB flash drives, headphones, and their covers. Several of the players are special models designed to be used by people with visual impairments and dementia.

The find out more about how the charity is helping to fund improvements to patient care and staff wellbeing, visit www.imperialcharity.org.uk/grants