Music to spark a better life for older adults and preschoolers

Posts tagged ‘Dementia’

Welcome Summer!

In the good old summertime. [canoe] (LOC)

Image by The Library of Congress via Flickr

Summer officially begins on June 21, 2011. Why not celebrate the day with songs? Here are a few songs older adults may recognize.

  • In the Good Old Summertime
  • Summertime
  • “Tis the last Rose of Summer
  • June is Busting Out All Over (Be sure and check out the song spotlight  and song writing info at Soundscape Music Therapy)
  • Summer Wind
  • We’ll Sing in the Sunshine
  • Beach Baby
  • By the Sea
  • Barefootin’

You can bring in more senses with old pictures of swim suits, picture of a fan blowing on a block of ice (old-time air conditioning), a beach ball, a pale with shovel, maybe a little sand to run through the fingers (or toes), coconut butter, baby oil (an old-time sun tanning lotion) just to name a few.

As for this traveling music therapist, I’m cranking up the AC and the tunes while I share a few memories of summers passed around the Hays, Kansas area.

Who are my clients? (Part 1)

This weekend I shared on Twitter a post that inspired this writing and one future post.

Given the dual nature of my work – older adults and preschoolers – I feel there are slightly different definitions for whom and where I wish to work depending on the age group. This post focuses on older adults. As most of my contacts are in facilities, you will notice a nod in that direction.

I do not want to work with you if you:

  • want me to volunteer my services
  • see music therapy as just entertainment
  • don’t want your staff to take part in the process of my sessions
  • expect just quiet singing
  • aren’t open to exploring a world of music and experiences
  • view a 10 AM session as beginning strictly at 10AM
  • think someone is too confused/ to sick to benefit from music therapy
  • can’t be bothered with encouraging people to attend
  • don’t want to move the furniture to facilitate groups

I want to work with you if you:

  • enjoy my energy
  • allow me to share my observations with staff
  • encourage residents and staff to work together in creating a home like environment
  • are willing to witness laughter and tears
  • see learning and growing as a part of living no matter your age
  • value each person for what they can add
  • know the power of music (or are at least open to exploring it)
  • willing to try new things, sing new songs
  • see the abilities of the residents
  • enjoying offering services that engage your residents
  • encourage intergenerational activities

Now you know who I want to work with in the Hays, Kansas area. For more information on my services for older adults, see this page.  If this interests you or your facility, please contact me: .

If you live outside the area or just want to learn ways to provide some special resources in the lives of older adults, I  invite you to sign up for my FREE newsletter – SPARKS! 

Song stories

Song of the World Becoming - A Lost Book

Image by brewbooks via Flickr

This week, at the request of a resident,  I learned an old hymn in public domain “Let the Lower Lights Keep Burning”.  The imagery of the hymn is very foreign to the plains of Kansas yet is well depicted in the lyrics.  The person making the request described the old hymnal from her youth in great detail.

Often I ask the seniors in my assisted living groups for song suggestions to use in upcoming sessions.  The challenge of finding and of learning these songs has led me to many treasures over the years.  It also provides insights as to what is important to the individual residents.  It provides me insights of how to help connect our music experiences with the upcoming themes – often provided by a corporation.

But there is often a bigger treasure to these requests –  listening to the stories that go with the songs:

  • “I learned this song when _______.”
  • “I like this song because _________.”
  • “This song reminds me of__________.”
  • “I want to sing ____ because_________.”

These are some of the stories shared in my groups.  Sometimes group members have similar stories, at other times very different stories.  There seems to be a joy in the sharing the commonalities along with the differences.  Smiles, tears, memories come forth.  We even look into the history of some of the songs to answer some “why’s” that arise from the singing.  The era, setting, personal history of the composer, reason for writing will often show in the lyrics.

I encourage you to take the time to ask someone their song stories – no matter their age.  Who knows where it will lead?

Future Newsletter Ideas for Older Adults

My newsletters are currently released every two weeks.  Each is centered on a theme and includes songs, books, discussion questions, movies or other ideas to add a little fun to the lives of people.  I try to include ideas appropriate with active older adults, those in assisted living facilities and skilled nursing homes as well as those dealing with dementia,  While I have lots of ideas for future posts and newsletters, I wanted to get your input.  There is one week for you to select one of the posted ideas or to share your own.  So pass the word and place your vote today. 

P.S. If you don’t currently subscribe you can still vote.  Then, sign up by clicking on JoAnn’s Gems in the right column.

A Musical Laugh

Here is my funny musical find of the week!  It address issues of memory loss with a tune most of us know.  Enjoy!

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?

Yes, you can!

Though you may not be a music therapist, you can still use music to help those with dementia connect.  People may feel they need to be a trained musician to share a song with someone, but it isn’t true.  Here is a beautiful example:

A positive look at aging!

While many people look at aging with doom and gloom, I’ve always looked forward to the possibilities aging provides.  Having spent much of my professional career with retirees has informed this process.   They bring a wealth of experiences and often a “enjoy the day” approach to their lives.  Many of them pursue their passions and continue to fill their days with love and learning.  It appears happiness may come with age.  A recent study published online May 17 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows enjoyment and happiness increase from age 50 until age 75 then decreasing slightly but not decreasing to age 50 levels.

For those fearful of memory loss, realize research efforts continue.   While a cure or vaccine has not been found, management efforts continue.  As a music therapist I am often amazed how those engaged in music can seem to unlock portions of their memories.   A recent article in the Kansas City Star highlighted this along with some music application efforts.   Please look at this article then share your thoughts about aging.

Experts look to music as way to uncover past buried by dementia –

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