The music app that supports dementia care at home

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Many caregivers of people with dementia recognize the value of music in supporting the well-being of a loved one. As the cognitive state of the person with dementia declines over time, they become confused by their surroundings and may become distressed by their confusion.

When their instant memory becomes fleeting, it can be important to help them access long-term memories and life experiences through music.

Music can help people with dementia access long-term memories. Image: Provided

This can help them orient themselves more to their surroundings and reconnect with family members through shared meaningful musical experiences.

A new music adaptation technology known as MATCH or Music Attuned Technology – Care via eHealth – aims to empower caregivers of people with dementia to use music to support care and manage symptoms of dementia at home.

It’s based on evidence that music can boost autobiographical recall, regulate arousal, decrease the severity of challenging behaviors, reduce depression, and improve mood.

The MATCH project team is developing and testing a scalable, accessible, acceptable and culturally sensitive mobile application that will include a series of caregiver training programs.

These aim to guide family caregivers to use music more strategically and consciously as an adaptive tool to support care, reduce symptoms, as well as foster meaning and connection within families affected by dementia. .

In addition to training modules, we are developing new technologies using wearable sensors to detect changes in biomarkers and behaviors in people with dementia. This excitement can lead to challenging behaviors such as physical and verbal aggression.

Once detected, using machine learning and artificial intelligence, the onset of shaking activates a closed-loop physiological feedback system – meaning personally preferred music adapts to sync with and regulate the ‘excitement.

MATCH aims to empower caregivers of people with dementia to use music to support home care. Image: Provided

This can be particularly important when a caregiver is not available.

While this automated system isn’t the same as a relationship with a real person, like a caregiver or music therapist, we hope it can be part of that relationship.

MATCH is currently funded by a 2 million Australian dollar grant from the Federal Government’s Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF), which is being used to develop the algorithms for the automated system as well as to test the app for accessibility, feasibility , acceptability, clinical effectiveness and cost. efficiency.

But if we look at the real impact this could have – the example of John, a 70-year-old man with dementia who lives at home with his wife Margaret – gives us some insight.

He often becomes confused and restless, especially later in the day. He frequently paces the house, follows his wife, and talks constantly.

When Margaret tries to calm him down, he can react unpredictably, sometimes hitting, biting, kicking and screaming. This increases the stress she is already under and she tires quickly.

After several months of dealing with his difficult behavior, her ability to cope is exhausted and she can no longer care for him. She reluctantly places him in an old people’s residence, which she feels guilty about and feels like she’s abandoned her husband.

Favorite music adapts to sync with and help regulate restlessness. Image: Provided

If she had a tool that could better help her cope, she might have been able to keep it at home longer.

Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon scenario and MATCH can help.

Using the training of MATCH caregivers with the built-in sensors – who have already ‘learned’ what John’s typical behavior patterns are – these changes can be detected and appropriate music activated and adapted so that his wife can calm him down.

The tempo, style and volume of the music will then constantly adapt to meet his current needs, regulate his excitement and help reduce his restlessness.

As John becomes calmer, his confusion lessens and he is better able to interact with his wife in ways that bring them both together – helping her better cope with her care and her own good. -be.

The research that led to the development of the mobile application emerged following the implementation of two large clinical trials. The first was in residential care facilities for the aged (MIDDEL) where music therapists implemented programs with residents with dementia.

The second is a home-based program (HOMESIDE) where family caregivers are trained by music therapists to use music consciously and intentionally as part of daily care.

In MATCH, our research team of more than 20 clinicians and technology scientists are adapting HOMESIDE into a digital program alongside new adaptive music technology that will expand the benefits of music therapy and reach more people.

New music adaptation technology allows the benefits of music therapy to reach more people. Image: Provided

Our team is currently testing the training program with families across Australia, while simultaneously working on the sensor technology and AI component.

We hope to launch the MATCH caregiver training program in 2023 and expect the adaptive music system to be ready for product launch in late 2025.

Currently, the aged care sector is in crisis, with devastating results reported by the Royal Commission on Aged Care. The Commission’s report highlighted the benefits and subsequent needs of music therapy, and MATCH is at least in part helping to increase access to the benefits of music therapy for those who need support the most.

The MATCH team is testing the first version of the app with people with dementia and family caregivers who live together in the community. If you are a person with dementia or a carer and would like to take part in an eight-week trial, please contact +61 3 9035 3057 or [email protected]

Banner: Getty Images

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