The following article is a part of conference coverage from the American Psychiatric Nurses Association (APNA) 34th Annual Conference, held online from September 30 to October 4, 2020. The team at the Clinical Advisor will be reporting on the latest news and research conducted by leading nurses in psychiatry. Check back for more from APNA 2020.


Agitation is a common symptom in patients with dementia, which can put stress on patients, family members, and caregivers. Group music therapy in a nursing home setting was found to reduce agitation, according to a poster presented at the American Psychiatric Nurses Association 34th Annual Conference, held online from September 30th to October 4th, 2020.

Pedro Estrada Morante, DNP, PMHNP-BC, NP-C, APRN, FNP-BC, facilitated the study, by examining agitation in 30 nursing home residents aged 60 to 85 years at the Hyde Park Convalescent Hospital in Los Angeles. The mean participant age was 71 years; approximately one-third of the participants were women and two-thirds were men. Five participants were White, 6 were Hispanic, and 19 were Black.

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Dr Morante used the Cohen Mansfield Agitation Inventory (CMAI) to assess patient behavior pre- and post-intervention. The intervention consisted of caregivers playing familiar calming music such as ballads and lullabies through a speaker while residents ate lunch for approximately 30 to 45 minutes. The intervention took place over an 8-week period with 3 sessions per week. All 30 participants attended each of the 24 sessions, which were supervised by a music therapist. Nurses completed the CMAI 2 weeks prior to intervention and at the end of the 8 weeks.

Compared with residents who did not receive music therapy, residents who participated in the study exhibited fewer agitated behaviors at the end of the 8 weeks. For example, the 30 residents had an average CMAI score of 3.67 for screaming prior to receiving music therapy, but 8 weeks later the group’s mean CMAI score for the same behavior was 1.50. Similar reductions were seen in physical, aggressive behaviors such as hitting (3.17 vs 1.50), biting (3.17 vs 1.53), and making sexual advances (3.13 vs 1.53).

“Music intervention can be regarded as a safe and cost-effective approach in managing dementia symptoms of elderly patients,” Dr Morante concluded. “This method promises great potential in replacing antipsychotic drugs to manage aggressive behavior brought about by dementia on elderly patients.”

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Morante PE. Effectiveness of group music therapy among geriatrics with dementia in a nursing home to control agitation. Presented at: APNA Annual Conference; September 30 -October 4, 2020. Poster 93.