Can a Virtual Choir for Dementia Improve Communication and Engagement?
Parrott, Madelynn A., 1999--
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Purpose This capstone is a case series examining the effects of a virtual choir specifically designed for individuals with dementia on engagement (i.e., attention, affect) and language/communication. This is especially critical in the current healthcare climate given the known isolation and vulnerability of such individuals in the era of COVID 19. We hypothesized that even in virtual form, active choir participation would stimulate engagement and communication (i.e., CIUs) for individuals with mild-moderate dementia. After data collection and analysis, we cannot determine the impact of virtual choir and reminiscence therapy on CIUs. Method The choir consisted of 8-12 individuals functioning with different levels of dementia. Three participants with mild, mild-moderate, and moderate-severe dementia were chosen from the choir to be a part of this study. The three participants received music therapy in the form of a virtual (Zoom) choir, once per week for 30 minutes, led by a trained speech-language pathologist and music teacher. Following current COVID-19 safety procedures, each participant sang individually in his or her room using an iPad to view the Zoom meeting with activities staff on stand-by for assistance. After choir, the three study participants were paired with student volunteers in individual Zoom break-out rooms for language sample collection. The language of each participant was measured in Correct Information Units (CIUs), and the Menorah Park Engagement Scale (MPES) was used to measure the engagement of each participant during treatment. Results We found that individuals with mild to moderate dementia were able to stay engaged constructively during choir, but our participant with a more severe profile (P3) was unable to stay engaged without additional in person, tactile support. P2 was the only participant whose number of CIUs increased after baseline measurements were taken. P1 and P2 had a slightly lower number of CIUs after participating in virtual choir rehearsal and reminiscence therapy. Conclusion We found that our participants highly anticipated getting to interact with one another during choir rehearsals and conversing with someone during reminiscence therapy afterwards. Overall, participation in a virtual choir paired with reminiscence therapy did not lead to significantly increased communication for individuals with mild to moderate dementia compared to baseline (reminiscence without choir rehearsals); however, we found that our participants were able to demonstrate active engagement during virtual choir and reminiscence settings, supporting the ability of technology to effectively assist in alleviating social isolation imposed by COVID-19.