“When the music is on, she is there” – Professional caregivers’ perspectives and use of musical interactions in caring for the person with dementia





dementia care, care work, nonverbal interaction, musical interaction, attunement, hermeneutic ethnography, collaborative learning


Music therapy and musical interventions are increasingly used in dementia care to support embodied nonverbal interaction. In this study, six professional caregivers and a music therapist collaborate to explore and understand how musical interactions can be used in the daily interactions between the caregiver and the person with dementia. The caregivers contributed to the generation of qualitative data, including narratives describing musical interactions in their work. Data were analysed by applying a hermeneutic ethnographic approach with the music therapist in the role of researcher. The analysis illuminated the four following themes describing how the caregivers use and understand musical interactions in dementia care: 1) vitality and communication, 2) connectedness through attunement, 3) a life story soundtrack, 4) from anxiety to reassurance. Musical interactions such as music listening, dancing, singing, and playing instruments provided the caregivers with new approaches to meeting the psychosocial needs of persons with dementia. The four themes were discussed using practice theory. The results integrate the perspective of
the caregivers and exemplify how caregivers can take active part in research processes.

Author Biographies

Julie Kolbe Krøier, Aalborg University, Denmark

Julie Kolbe Krøier is a PhD Fellow at Aalborg University, Denmark. She works clinically as a music therapist and supervisor in dementia care. She is an Associate Editor for the Danish Journal of Music Therapy [jukk@ikp.aau.dk]

Hanne Mette Ridder, Aalborg University, Denmark

Hanne Mette Ridder, PhD, is a Professor of Music Therapy at Aalborg University, Denmark. She is the Head of the Doctoral Programme in Music Therapy, approved clinical supervisor, and past president of the European Music Therapy Confederation. Her research and publications are mainly focused on music therapy in a psychosocial understanding of dementia care. [hmr@ikp.aau.dk]