Music and Memory Program Means Fewer Meds, Better Behaviors

August 13, 2020

Researchers from the University of California, Davis documented in the August issue of JAMDA the impact of Music and MemorySM (M&M), a non-pharmacological intervention, on nursing home residents with dementia.

The Impact of Music and Memory on Resident Level Outcomes in California Nursing Homes studied 4,107 residents in 265 nursing homes over a three-year period. Debra Bakerjian, PhD, APRN, RN, and her team found that M&M was associated with reductions in psychotropic medications, reduced behaviors, improved mood, less pain, and fewer falls. It is the largest study of M&M to date.

The odds of antipsychotic use declined by about 11%, of antianxiety medications by 17%, and antidepressants by 9% per quarter. In addition, the odds of residents exhibiting aggressive behaviors declined by 20% per quarter, depressive symptoms by 16%, reported pain by 17%, and falls by 8%.

The authors found the reduction in antipsychotics to be “particularly noteworthy, given the documented significant reduction in the use of antipsychotics statewide before the start of this study.”

The M&M program advocates the use of personalized music for older adults with dementia and other cognitive or behavioral symptoms with the goal of improving their quality of life. According to the authors, “While there are a few proven non-pharmacological interventions, activities and music therapy have been shown to decrease overall agitation in nursing home residents.” They cited a 2018 systematic review and meta-analysis that found receptive music therapy, including listening to the participant’s favorite music, was more effective at decreasing agitation and behavioral problems than interactive music therapy.

The authors found that M&M was frequently housed within in the activities department “with limited involvement from other departments.” However, they noted, “Encouraging other departments, especially nursing, to use M&M with residents could increase the frequency and duration of use and overall successful sustainment of the program.”

The project was supported by the Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services Civil Money Penalty funds as well as the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. It was sponsored by the California Association of Health Facilities.

Click here for more information on the findings above and more details about the study. To contact the researchers or JAMDA editor for an interview, please email



JAMDA is the official journal of AMDA – The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine. JAMDA publishes peer-reviewed articles including original studies, reviews, clinical experience articles, case reports, and more, on all topics more important to post-acute and long-term care medicine. Visit for more information.

About AMDA – The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine
AMDA – The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine is the only medical specialty society representing the community of over 50,000 medical directors, physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and other practitioners working in the various post-acute and long-term care (PALTC) settings. Dedicated to defining and improving quality, we advance our mission through timely professional development, evidence-based clinical guidance, and tireless advocacy on behalf of members, patients, families, and staff. Visit for more information.