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    ANZAC Village, Narrabeen NSW

    The evidence supporting music therapy as a beneficial experience for older adults is persuasive. The benefits of music therapy have long been acknowledged by residents and families as worthwhile and they have supported the home’s successful program of music therapy throughout the village for many years.

    In 2011 Alex West of Drumstuff introduced weekly drumming sessions in our residential aged care facilities. Alex's prior work with young people at risk led him to expand his range of involvement to include those living in an aged care environment. His experience led him to believe that the therapeutic benefits of drumming could be shared with older adults and especially by people with cognitive deficits.

    Aims:

    To improve the quality of life of the participants through:

    • Physical movement - exercise 
    • Left-right brain cross-over 
    • Safe release of aggression 
    • Improved ability to participate and interact with other residents 
    • Reduce wandering 
    • Alleviating anxiety 

    Develop a training module for recreation staff to implement. 


    Drumming is offered to residents with cognitive decline and evaluated following an 18 week period of weekly drumming sessions. Participant assessments are completed pre and post therapy period and regular observations are recorded.

    The results show that the sessions are of great benefit to individuals in terms of their mood, social engagement and reduction of agitation. While the benefits are not necessarily long lasting they are observable during and following the therapy sessions, even for those with advanced symptoms of decline.

    Residents were free to participate as they wish and this may include just watching and listening. They were given free choice of drumming instruments where appropriate.

    Alex West has been involved in the program from the beginning and has, over the time, researched drumming with individuals with dementia, both here and in the USA, and has adapted the program accordingly. He is currently developing a Staff Training Module in consultation with Christine Stevens MT-BC, M. Social Work. It will be based on her work from REMO healthRHYTHMS as well as the experience gained from conducting the drumming sessions at our facility. It will be a 10 step protocol that requires no previous musical experience of the facilitator, such as a recreation officer in an RACF.

    A number of our recreation staff have been involved in assisting Alex with implementing the drumming sessions. They will be able to implement the 10 step protocol and assist inexperienced recreation staff with its implementation.

    The Staff Training Module will be available for any aged care home to use if they wished to introduce a drumming program for their residents. The staff implementing the program do not need any music training. The instruments required do not have to be expensive and range from simple shakers to tambourines and drums.

    Panel member’s comments:

    Heaven! Clearly, simply and honestly described and explained. No pretense at trying to be something more sophisticated than it actually is (which ironically is probably more sophisticated than they have made it sound!)

    The way the program has evolved from an apparent random relationship/meeting with the drumming facilitator, Alex West, then working with young people at risk, seems testament to a genuine and evolving passion and commitment on the part of both the facilitator and the aged care provider. 

    I am further impressed by the collaborative approach to developing a staff training module that can be undertaken by staff with no musical background or experience. The objective seems genuinely to be in the interests of improving quality of life for residents (as well as building skills and career depth for staff) rather than ‘mystifying’ and commercialising the approach as is so often the case with a good, simple idea. 

    For more information on this program, contact Frances Russell, Research Fellow, frances.russell@rsllifecare.org.au or (02) 8978 4376; or Shannon Sinclair, Recreation Co-ordinator shannon.sinclair@rsllifecare.org.au or (02) 8978 4278.

    www.rsllifecare.org.au