How to Use Music Therapy in Care Homes

How to Use Music Therapy in Care Homes


Care Learning

3 mins READ

Music therapy is a valuable and innovative approach for improving the well-being of residents in care homes. Utilising music can evoke memories, provide comfort, and stimulate cognitive and emotional functions. This guide will help you understand how to effectively implement music therapy in care homes.

What is Music Therapy?

Music therapy is the use of music to address the emotional, cognitive, social, and physical needs of individuals. Licensed music therapists create treatment plans tailored to each person’s needs, incorporating listening to music, singing, playing instruments, and movement to music.

Benefits of Music Therapy in Care Homes

Music therapy offers numerous benefits:

  1. Improves Mood: Music can lift spirits and reduce feelings of anxiety and depression.
  2. Enhances Memory: Familiar tunes can trigger memories and improve cognitive function, particularly in individuals with dementia.
  3. Promotes Social Interaction: Group music activities encourage residents to interact and build relationships.
  4. Reduces Agitation and Aggression: Soothing music can calm residents who are experiencing distress.
  5. Encourages Physical Movement: Dancing or even simple movements to music can enhance physical coordination and mobility.

Implementing Music Therapy in Care Homes

Assessing Residents’ Needs

Before starting, assess the residents’ needs and preferences.

  • Conduct Initial Assessments: Understand each resident’s musical likes, dislikes, and any past associations with music.
  • Medical Considerations: Be aware of any medical conditions that might affect how residents respond to music.
  • Personal Histories: Gather information about residents’ backgrounds to select music that resonates with them.

Developing a Music Therapy Programme

Individual Sessions

Tailor individual sessions to meet specific needs.

  • Personalised Playlists: Create playlists with songs that hold personal significance for each resident.
  • One-on-One Interaction: Use personalised sessions to engage with residents who may not benefit from group activities.

Group Activities

Group music activities foster a sense of community.

  • Sing-Alongs: Organise sessions where residents can sing together.
  • Music and Movement: Encourage light exercises or dance to music, adapted to the ability levels of the residents.
  • Instrument Play: Provide simple instruments like maracas or tambourines for residents to play.

Types of Music Therapy Techniques

Passive Techniques

Involve residents by having them listen to music.

  • Background Music: Play gentle, calming music in common areas.
  • Therapeutic Listening: Use headphones for residents to listen to personalised playlists.

Active Techniques

Engage residents in making music.

  • Singing: Encourage residents to sing along to familiar songs.
  • Playing Instruments: Provide instruments like keyboards, drums, or bells.
  • Songwriting: Assist residents in creating their own songs, which can be deeply empowering.

Timing and Duration

Consider the timing and duration of sessions.

  • Session Length: Typically, sessions should last between 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the residents’ attention span and energy levels.
  • Frequency: Aim for at least two or three sessions per week to maintain continuity and reinforce benefits.

Training and Resources

Hiring a Music Therapist

For robust implementation, consider hiring a certified music therapist.

  • Professional Standards: Ensure the therapist meets the standards set by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).
  • Expertise: A qualified therapist will design effective, person-centred programmes.

Training Staff

Train your existing staff to incorporate music therapy principles.

  • Workshops and Seminars: Arrange for regular training sessions conducted by a professional music therapist.
  • Resource Materials: Provide access to books, videos, and online courses on music therapy techniques.

Collaboration with Families

Engaging families can enhance the effectiveness of music therapy.

  • Family Input: Ask family members about residents’ favourite music and musical memories.
  • Involve Family Members: Encourage family participation in music therapy sessions when possible.

Evaluating the Effectiveness

Regular Assessments

Consistent evaluation is crucial.

  • Feedback Forms: Develop forms for residents, staff, and family members to provide feedback.
  • Progress Notes: Keep detailed notes on each resident’s responses and progress.

Adjusting Programmes

Adapt and modify the programme based on evaluation findings.

  • Flexibility: Be willing to change playlists, techniques, and the frequency of sessions as needed.
  • Resident-Centric: Always keep the residents’ needs and preferences at the forefront.

Ethical and Practical Considerations

Consent and Autonomy

Respect residents’ autonomy and ensure informed consent.

  • Informed Consent: Explain the purpose and methods of music therapy to residents and obtain their consent, where possible.
  • Respect Choices: Honour residents’ choices, including their right to decline participation.

Cultural Sensitivity

Be mindful of cultural differences in musical preferences.

  • Diverse Music Selection: Include a variety of musical genres that reflect the cultural backgrounds of residents.
  • Respect Cultural Significance: Understand and respect the cultural importance of specific types of music.

Equipment and Space

Ensure you have the necessary equipment and appropriate spaces.

  • Quality Sound Systems: Invest in good quality speakers and headphones.
  • Comfortable Setting: Create a comfortable, safe, and inviting environment for sessions.


Music therapy holds transformative potential for residents in care homes.

By understanding the residents’ needs, developing tailored programmes, and continuously evaluating the impact, care homes can leverage the power of music to enhance the quality of life for their residents.

Implement music therapy with sensitivity, respect, and professionalism to truly make a positive difference.

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