It’s not what you do, but the way that you do it


Dementia care

While music is being championed as an important intervention in various settings for those advanced in years, music therapy is simply not a matter of putting a compact disk in the hi-fi system. Throughout the years, I have been asked for a suitable repertoire for the elderly. The question usually goes, “My mum is eighty, living alone, and I want to buy her some compact disks to play at home so that she isn’t so lonely. What would you prescribe?”. The answer that invariably follows is; “Well, first we cannot prescribe music like medication. But you can ask her what she likes, or probably over the years, being your mother you have probably got to know her well, then you know what she likes.

Secondly, compact disks are no substitute for companionship. They share the first four letters, but that is all. Loneliness is not cured by music and as every young lover knows, music probably makes loneliness deliciously worse”. So the challenge is not to stick another record on the record machine but to sing to your mother. By singing with another person, we have to adjust our singing to the way in which they react and there lie the music therapy skills; in musical judgement of the appropriate repertoire, knowing when to respond and when to pull-back, as every bar-pianist will tell you.

We know from our work with children that music therapy facilitates and enables communication. Indeed, we know that there is an innate musicality to human communication. I have taken this a step further and suggested that the process of living is performative, that we are polyrhythmic, symphonic beings improvised in the moment. This is to emphasise “I perform therefore I am, rather than the Cartesian “I think therefore I am”.

In addition, when we make music together, we are interested in what people can do. Both we, and they, know what they cannot. This is a shift of emphasis away from pathology to potential.

Such an approach has proved to be attractive to may people working with the elderly and I have been fortunate to have cooperated in several research projects and to be co-operating further with Professor Murna Downs and her team at the Bradford Dementia Group.

Hanne-Mette Ochsner Ridder, a Danish music therapy lecturer and researcher has written extensively on this subject. Her work can be found in the books below and also as a recent article.

Ridder, H.-M. & Aldridge, D. (2005). Individual music therapy with persons with frontotemporal dementia: Singing dialogue. Nordic Journal of Music Therapy, 14(2), 91-106.

Aldridge, D. (2005). Musiktherapie - Musiktherapie in der Behandlung von Demenz. In K. D. Altershilfe (Ed.), Demenzforschung in NRW und Praxisanforderungen. (pp. 51-56). Köln: Koordinierungsstelle der landesinitiative Demenz-Service NRW.

Aldridge, D. (2003). The creative arts therapies in the treatment of neurodegenerative illness. In P. d. Campo(pp. 25-35). Barcelona: Fundación "la Caixa".

Aldridge, D. (1998). Music therapy and the treatment of Alzheimers's disease. Journal of Clinical Geropsychology, 4(1), 17-30.

Aldridge, D. (1995). De la Musique en tant que Thérapie de la Maladie d'Alzheimer. Alzheimer Actualites, 99, 6-11.

Aldridge, D. (1995). Music Therapy and the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. Clinical Gerontoloist, 16(1), 41-57.

Aldridge, D. (1994). Alzheimer's Disease: rhythm, timing and music as therapy. Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy, 48(7), 275-81.

Aldridge, D. (1993). Music and Alzheimer's disease - assessment and therapy: a discussion paper. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 86, 93-95.

Aldridge, D. & Brandt, G. (1991). Music therapy and Alzheimer's disease. Journal of British Music Therapy, 5(2), 28-63.

The research project “My Top Ten” includes a combination of work with the elderly, with young people in the community, music  and the development of  narrative methods of research basd on discovering potential and recreating resources from young and old together.
Further reading (see also Collected Works)

David Aldridge

Book chaptersBook_chapters.html
Journal articlesJournal_articles.html
Palliative carePalliative_care.html
Dementia care
Spirituality referencesSpirituality_References.html
Photography projectsPhotography_projects.html
La GomeraLa_Gomera.html
Home GardenHome_garden.html
READ MORE in Collected Works
Making senseMaking_sense.html
Performing healthPerforming_health.html
Case Study Designs in Music Therapy
Edited by David Aldridge
Paperback, ISBN-10: 1-84310-140-8 ISBN-13: 9781843101406, 304pp, 2004
Music Therapy and Neurological Rehabilitation
Performing Health
Edited by David Aldridge
Paperback, ISBN-10: 1-84310-302-8 ISBN-13: 9781843103028, 304pp, 2005

Music Therapy in Dementia Care

Edited by David Aldridge

Paperback, ISBN-10: 1-85302-776-6 ISBN-13: 9781853027765, 256pp, 2000

Bliss seriesBliss.html