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Managing agitated behaviour in people with Alzheimer’s disease: The role of live music


Cox, Elissa, Nowak, Madeleine, Buettner, Petra


The British Journal of Occupational Therapy, Volume: 74, No.: 11, Pages.: 517-524

Year of Publication



Background: Agitation due to Alzheimer’s disease (AD) presents a challenge to occupational therapists working in the older people care sector. Recently background music and music therapy have emerged as promising tools in the management of agitation in AD. This exploratory study investigated whether live music could reduce agitated behaviour in people with AD. Method: A quasi-experimental one-group repeated measures design investigated the effect of a live, one-to-one, musical violin intervention on agitated behaviour in people with moderate-severe AD in a residential care facility. Seven participants received the musical intervention on three occasions. Participants were video recorded before, during and after each session. Behaviour was assessed by the investigator and a blinded assessor, using an investigator-modified Cohen-Mansfield Agitation Inventory. Thirty agitated behaviours were examined. Data were analysed using the Friedman test. Results. This intervention reduced agitated behaviour among participants. Significant reductions in pacing/aimless wandering (p = 0.023), performing repetitious mannerisms (p = 0.036) and general restlessness (p = 0.007) were observed. The total number of agitated behaviours decreased significantly (median 5 [range 2-8] behaviours before the intervention to 1 [range 0-4] during and 1 [range 0-5] after the intervention [p = 0.005]). Conclusion: Live music may be an effective strategy to reduce short-term agitated behaviour among people with AD. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2015 APA, all rights reserved). (journal abstract)

Bibtex Citation

@article{Cox_2011, doi = {10.4276/030802211x13204135680866}, url = {}, year = 2011, month = {nov}, publisher = {{SAGE} Publications}, volume = {74}, number = {11}, pages = {517--524}, author = {Elissa Cox and Madeleine Nowak and Petra Buettner}, title = {Managing agitated behaviour in people with Alzheimer{textquotesingle}s disease: the role of live music}, journal = {br j occup ther} }


agitated behavior, agitation, alzheimer’s disease, live music, music, occupational therapists

Countries of Study


Types of Dementia

Alzheimer’s Disease

Types of Study

Cohort Study

Type of Outcomes



Long Term Residential Care without medically trained staff

Type of Interventions

Non-pharmacological Treatment

Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions

Arts and Music Interventions (including Art and Music Therapy)