Effectiveness of a Collaborative Music Therapy and Social Work Telehealth Framework to Address the Well-Being of Community-Dwelling Older Adults

Grants and Contracts Details


Abstract: Growth of the aging population and age-associated pathologies, such as Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, warrant identification of effective psychosocial interventions. Linking older adults to community and health-related services can promote health and mitigate psychosocial distress. Service continuity is an essential principle of patient-centered older adult care that may be optimized through collaboration. The goal of this quantitative pilot study is to evaluate the effectiveness of a collaborative music therapy and social work telehealth framework for community-dwelling older adults with and without dementia with regards to their well-being, cognition, and service quality. In addition to barriers such as transportation, finances, or lack of social support, the COVID-19 pandemic created new obstacles for older adults to access services and support. Although the pandemic has served as a catalyst to move healthcare services and community resources online, including social work and music therapy, this transition occurred rapidly. Such reactivity casts doubt on the quality of service delivery. Furthermore, few studies have examined the feasibility or effectiveness of such services among older adults, who may lack knowledge, skills, and resources to utilize telehealth. To assess the role of music therapy practice in this emerging delivery model, this pilot study integrates delivery of music therapy telehealth with social work support and service linkage for community-dwelling older adults with and without dementia. Social workers consider ways to enhance individuals’ well-being and meet basic and complex needs, with a focus on those who are vulnerable, oppressed, and living with poorer health and psychosocial outcomes. Social workers may be able to leverage the therapeutic relationship that music therapists build with older adults through music experiences to more readily identify and address service needs. This pilot study is informed by an initial feasibility project in which we evaluated the acceptability, barriers, and facilitators of this novel collaborative framework for older adults with and without dementia. Information gleaned from this feasibility study indicated that this framework may facilitate remote community connection and that it is of value and interest to older adults. The objectives of this quantitative pilot study are to evaluate the effectiveness of 1) telehealth music therapy on feelings of older adults with and without dementia, 2) music therapy and social work collaboration within this framework on well-being, loneliness, and cognition, and 3) interdisciplinary collaboration on older adults’ perception of service referral quality. For this pilot study, we plan to recruit 20 community-dwelling older adults (10 with dementia). All participants will receive music therapy via telehealth 2 times per week for 30 minutes across 4 weeks (8 total music therapy sessions). All participants will also receive three 30-minute social work wellness sessions: after 2 weeks of music therapy, at the end of music therapy, and at a 2- week follow-up. Collaboration is the key difference in the levels of independent variable: participants will be randomly assigned to either a collaborative condition, or non-collaborative condition. In the collaborative condition, information collected during music therapy will inform social work wellness sessions following a protocol developed during the feasibility study. In the non-collaborative condition, social workers and music therapists will operate telehealth services independently. In addition to quantitative data, participants and interventionists will be invited to engage in a semi-structured qualitative interview at the conclusion of the study to inform further optimization of telehealth service delivery with this population. Data from this pilot will inform the design of a larger trial. This study addresses key areas of the MTR 2025 strategic plan and will help inform best practice in an innovative area of the music therapy profession.
Effective start/end date1/1/2312/31/24


  • American Music Therapy Association: $20,000.00


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