Music to spark a better life for older adults and preschoolers

Archive for the ‘Mental Health’ Category

Why I work with dementia clients

This past week much of my online reading has focused on Alzheimer’s. Three articles immediately stand out in my reading.

  1. Maturity Matters – Relationships – Ten Tips for Communicating with an Alzheimer\’s Patient.  This article highlights important concepts when communicating face to face or in group settings.
  2. Alzheimer’s Communication: Validation Versus Approval This article focused on the awareness caregivers and therapists need in responding to our clients.
  3. Make it Multi-sensory .  Rachelle shares about an impromptu mutli-sensory group and ideas for including other senses in music therapy sessions.

Then I had the question of my teenage daughter asked this last week: “Why do you  like working with people who have Alzheimer’s?” The answer lies within those articles and a few other items.

When I work with groups, there are often people at various stages of the disease process.  So, I have the challenging of providing opportunities for all to respond and to participate.  That means:

  • finding different ways to ask the same question;
  • being aware of how I am responding; responding to others the way I wold want to be treated;
  • having a general game plan or overarching idea while changing it, often in major ways, to the mood and response of the group; in other words staying focused on the moment;
  • providing a variety of sensory opportunities to increase the potential of response across the group;
  • the challenge of finding songs that resonate with the group members;
  • working with people who want to be loved for who they are now and who generally provide the same to me.

I could probably go on for a long time, but I’ll just summarize it by saying the challenge of meeting people where they are in the moment and going on a musical journey with them totally charges me. This group (along with preschoolers) seem to be where I feel most able to share a song and effect a positive change.

A lot of research is happening in the area of Alzheimer’s – its causes, ways to test, treatment. We know much more now than we did when I started working with this population over 25 years ago.  There is much more to learn.  But, the most important lessons come from those living with the diagnosis and their family.  One song that speaks to what I see as my roll is “Wanting Memories” by Sweet Honey in the Rock

Are you listening to what those dealing with dementia are saying?

Celebrate “Inspire Your Heart with Art Day”

An artist's palette

Image via Wikipedia

January 31st is Inspire Your Heart With Art Day.  It celebrates art and the effect it can have on your heart. No matter your age, art (in all its forms) can be valued and appreciated for all sorts of reasons. Even if your finances are tight, there are ways to access the arts and to find inspiration.

Look at a piece of art  or listen to a piece of music and ask yourself:

  • What is it telling me?
  • How does it make me feel?
  • What emotions is it evoking (if any) within me?
  • If I were to title this work of art, it would be called ___________.
  • Is there another work of art, piece of music, literary work, etc.  that expresses a similar idea?

Enjoy “Inspire Your Heart with Art Day”.  I look forward to learning what inspired you!

Holiday care

christmas music

Image by euze via Flickr

I started periodically hearing Christmas carols on November 1st.  Without a doubt, I’ll walk into he local assisted living facilities this week and see Christmas decorations.  Decorations and songs carry emotional ties to many. (My family tradition limited Christmas music – except when practicing, and decorating until December 13th and it continued until January 6th so I am still adjusting to Christmas before Halloween.)

During the years I worked as an Activity Director, carolers were asking to come sing all hours of the day.  The first year, I scheduled as many as I could only to hear comments like “I’ll throw up if I hear one more carol” by December 15th.  I learned to ask the Resident Council in October how many carolers they would like a day.   They often asked me to limit it to one group per day.  I also inquired about the playing of holiday music during meals after Thanksgiving with the group asking it not be played loudly.  There was also the balancing of various faiths and customs in my planning.

Now as a private practitioner I keep these thoughts in mind.  I tend to limit my holiday music or intermix it with my plans.  As one who helps my church plan community outreach, I try to promote sharing hymns or leading singalongs in January when other groups aren’t there. And, I point out how such a schedule helps keep January from being a let down.

For those working in Long term care, assisted living, skilled nursing facilities and related facilities, I offer the following thoughts:

  • Be sensitive to how clients/patients are handling the holidays.  Some people are focused on the losses in their lives – who isn’t there to celebrate.  Others are more focused on pleasant memories.  Some have friends and family to support them while others lack this support system.
  • Be aware of the emotional charge some music carries for some people.  Try to follow their lead as to carols and other music selections.  There are varying tolerances of tears.
  • Feel free to mix things up. I am aware of a lot of songs that are used during the holidays hat are about winter rather than the holidays (e.g.- “Jingle Bells” and “Winter Wonderland“).  I use these throughout the winter season.  I also encourage listening to newer holiday songs.  Many of the residents with which I work love to discuss “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer“.  And, it doesn’t carry the emotional ties of songs like “I’ll be Home for Christmas”.  Yes, I still sing the emotional favorites as they request them, but I mix them in with other songs.   I also share songs from a variety of countries and faiths as appropriate to the group I am with.

May your December be joy and music filled!

Drum Circle Explained

Its drum circle week at Sterling House of Hays.  Here’s a wonderful video to explain the why while giving you insights as to what might be included.

So, keep the beat!  Have some fun expressing and relating “as you create sacred space”.

Active Music Making and Wellness (via )

Wellness is one of the reasons I offer services to older adults.  Here’s information from a couple of my mentors on the positive effects of music making.

by Carl T. Bruhn and Dr. Alicia Ann Claire

Active music making and its role in wellness is receiving much attention around the country. So why all the interest? First of all, people are demanding more than the absence of disease to be well. They also want reduced illness risk, managed stress, better energy, daily enjoyment, personal development, satisfying relationships, and feelings of belonging. Second, active music making provides the opportun … Read More


The Power of Music, part 2

For me, music is a part of living a quality life.  I can’t imagine life without music.  Music has shaped and guided my life.  It is the discipline of practicing, of being on time to a group.  It is expressing emotions – both working through my feelings as well as more fully experience them.  It is relating with fellow musicians as well as the audience.  Music is an opportunity for me to explore myself, my world.

Music does much the same for others – maybe even in more powerful ways.  Here are some insights on “The Soloist” that tells of music’s power.  Enjoy !

School’s Out for Summer

As a teenager, this was a battle cry we played over & over in the “cave” at our school.  We SO looked forward to being out of class.  To this day, this song comes to mind as I pick up my daughter the last day of school.

The next thought for me is “How am I going to spend my summer?”  I look forward to more frequent visits with extended family.  It is days of not waking my husband or daughter early but rather spending a little quiet time watering in the garden and listening to the birds.  Summer is City Band rehearsals and performances.  Summer is playing my guitar on the back porch.  It’s the taste of ice cream and limeades.  It’s time to feel sand between my toes, a time for swimming.

So, how are you going to spend your summer?  Share your thoughts below.

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