Music to spark a better life for older adults and preschoolers

Posts tagged ‘postaweek2011’

Happy Second Birthday!

Music Sparks is two years old. 

It has been a great year – both in Hays and in social media.  

Here in Hays, I have had great fun regularly providing group music therapy services at some area assisted living facilities including a very successful intergenerational group at one facility. Being invited to take part in the Family Fun Fest at the Mall was an absolute blast! The fall Saturday morning class was great fun for me and the boys who attended. I am also thankful for the opportunity to volunteer some time during the year in the Good Samaritan Alzheimer’s unit – New Horizons.

Social media wise, things are booming. Our Facebook page has reached over 100 “likes”. As of June 2011, SPARKS is now a bi-weekly newsletter providing resources for preschoolers, older adults and intergenerational programs around different themes. And, as of today, Music Sparks has a new website: music2spark. Do check out the new site!

I am so thankful I found Laura Crum who is assisting me in the process, and providing guidance. I also have a lot of people who have served as mentors in social media:

Things only look for exciting for Music Sparks this coming year. As I announced in May, there are lots of changes coming. The intergenerational program will now be known as Music Sparks: Sharing Songs. Beginning in September there will be an additional evening session. For children 18 months through age 3 I will offer Music Sparks: Discover one morning a week. And, the Saturday morning class for 5-6 year olds will reappear as Music Sparks: Exploration. (Click here to check the Preschool Class page for details.)

Older adults not in Assisted Living aren’t forgotten. I am working on some group music opportunities just for you! The best place for you to find out about upcoming sessions is the Older Adult tab.  

Thank you to all who read this blog. I’ll see you from now on at the new, improved site  – Music 2 Spark!

Story Songs for Older Adults

Telling Stories

Image via Wikipedia

When my clients make me think, it gets me excited. This past week, a conversation started at an assisted living facility on stories told by songs. There are so many songs that tell stories, so the question became which to recommend. Once I was home from the session, I through the topic out to Twitterverse and received responses from Kat Fulton, Rachelle Norman, Carolyn D., and Carol Costantino. Thank you ladies!

This list of songs is from these ladies along with a few of my own. Songs will likely appeal older adults – 65+ in age. Where possible, I’ve linked to a recording on YouTube for easy of use by caregivers and seniors who wish to listen.

All of these have the makings of discussion starters. If you use any of these story songs to facilitate a group, please share the response you have to them. Love this idea but work with young children? No problem, I’ll soon have a list for this group & inter-generational groups very soon.

Good News About Nursing Homes

News

Image via Wikipedia

One of my favorite songs from the musical “The Wiz” is “Don’t Nobody Bring Me No Bad News”. There are times our media seems filled with bad news. One of the joys of living in a small community is a paper which carries some good news. The Wednesday, August 10, 2011 Hays Daily News carried a good news article that caught my eye: “Nursing homes recognized for culture change”. While I was unable to pull up the article online, I was able to locate the information on Kansas Department of Aging website.

The following seven facilities are being recognized for  Promoting Excellent Alternatives in Kansas (PEAK):

  • Arkansas City Presbyterian Manor, Arkansas City
  • Medicalodges Gardner, Gardner
  • Schowalter Villa, Hesston
  • Pleasant View Home, Inman
  • Asbury Park, Newton
  • Newton Presbyterian Manor, Newton
  • Brookside Retirement Community, Overbrook

Why is this important? Here are several reasons:

  1. Nursing homes often receive a bad rap. Reports of neglect and abuse in a nursing home receive lots of press. The loving care that people receive gets little press. Not all nursing homes are good. Not all facilities are bad.
  2. Nursing homes can be a positive in the lives of those they serve. Some people enjoy having assistance 24 hours a day, someone preparing meals, cleaning, contacting doctors. Some people like having others around for conversation.
  3. Nursing homes have changed dramatically in the last 20 years. Much has been learned about safe, comfortable care. Regulations have changed. Things are as hone like as possible.

Having worked many years in nursing homes I have a few suggestions:

  1. Start looking at facilities in your area long before you need them. One good way to look is to take part in community events they host. And, volunteering for a special event or on a regular basis can also provide insights.
  2. Look at State survey results. Realize that some citations are major risks while others are not.
  3. Observe how the staff and the residents interact.
  4. Observe how the mood of the facility. Each facility has its own feel, its own atmosphere. We all vary in what defines our best atmosphere.
  5. Find out about meals and food policies. Food is a major point of discussion. We all grew up seasoning our food in different ways, cooking items in various combinations. It is difficult to create a menu that fits every diet and pleases every palate. Facilities do their best. Again, see what is the best fit.
  6. Learn about the activity programming. Every program has its strengths and weaknesses. Again, there is an effort to balance interests and needs. Look for programs that provide a range of programs addressing various needs.

Now, here’s a secret thing to do: listen. No really listen. Listen to the tone of voice people use. Listen for noise levels. Listen to the music you hear playing – is it appropriate to the residents, the staff, or both? Listen.

What do you think are the marks of a good nursing facility? Please share them in the comments.

Finding My Career Path in Music Therapy

Pathway Between the Old and New Market

Image via Wikipedia

Rachel See Smith, MA, MT-BC recently posted “How I became interested in music therapy” which made me realize  that while I had shared my story on Musical Gems (My Music Therapy Aha! Moment) I hadn’t shared my story on this site. Here is the expanded version of my career path in music therapy.

Finding my path

My parents often joked I sang before I talked. While that may or may not be true, some of my earliest memories are of singing. At around age 2 I sang two settings of the liturgy at church and created my own songs while swinging. As I grew, I continued to sing.  I also studied piano and flute. One Christmas, my parents gave me a guitar which I taught myself to play.

My dad, a Lutheran pastor, chanted the liturgy and listened to opera whenever he could. My mom lead family singalongs around the piano and in the car.  They took us to concerts and played a variety of music in our home. Growing up in the parsonage afforded may opportunities for creating music at church and taking part in visits with shut-ins. All of this created a desire to work with people and to create music. Fields such as social work and elementary music education didn’t quite fit my desires. One Sunday a feature article in the Wichita Eagle-Beacon highlighted a music therapist working at St. Francis Hospital in Wichita, KS. I suddenly knew I had found my career.

Starting on the path

It took a lot of work to convince my high school counsel such a field existed and was offered at the University of Kansas. Once I was at KU, I was blessed to be surrounded by gifted students like Barry Bernstein, Brian and Lesley Hunter and wonderful professors including Dr. Alicia Clair. It was a great environment for me to learn and work with a variety of clients during my practicums. I interned at Parsons State Hospital and Training Center  in Parsons, KS with Ron Havelka. There I had the opportunity to interact with interns in many other disciplines including art, speech, and occupational therapies.

Where the path has led

Since completing my studies, I have worked with a variety of clientele in a range of settings. Other than when I have been self-employed I have carried job titles other than “music therapist”. Yet, that training has served me well. And, I have gained skills in all these positions and been able to utilize my music therapy skills in them. Most importantly, I found populations for which I have a passionate – older adults and young children. And, I developed skills leading intergenerational groups.

I still accept opportunities to work with those outside these groups. (One never knows when a new passion will develop.) Attending conferences, reading journals and books, looking for sources of information on the web are part of my continued growth as a therapist and as a person. Also, I know I am constantly learning from those I am blessed to have as clients.

What this path means for my clients

It’s a long road to freedom,

A winding steep and high,

But when you walk in love

With the wind on your wing

And cover the earth with the songs you sing

The miles fly by. ~ lyrics by Sister Miriam Therese Winter

My path to music therapy and to this point in life has been many miles and filled with many songs. For all those you have been with me and those who will cross paths in the future , thank you.

Diving Back In

Arvid Spångberg winning the bronze medal.

Image via Wikipedia

My vacation with family in Florida has ended. Today I am diving back into work with a fun, new intergenerational series: A Sea Full of Fun. What an appropriate topic!

  • I’ve just left being gulf side in Florida.
  • Not home even 24 hours, I’m back to providing sessions.
  • I’m working with my favorite mix of people: older adults & preschoolers.

Returning from a vacation can be difficult yet I have found a few things that make the “dive” less scary.

  1. I clean the house before I leave.While it is extra work on the front side, it makes it one less thing to do when I return home.
  2. I plan a few breaks from the normal schedule where possible. I try to set aside time in the schedule to sort mail, pay bills, unpack, and take a nap. Sometimes it means saying no to someone or something.
  3. I am learning to ask for help. My daughter and husband aren’t mind readers (like I often wish they were) so I ask their needs and their assistance with tasks.
  4. I plan for the unexpected. Having phone numbers for possible issues helps when the flight is cancelled, a tire is flat, or someone is ill. If I plan for the potential of issues, it seems less stressful and the issue doesn’t seem as bad as I had imagined.
  5. I treat myself with something the first week home. Maybe it is a bouquet of flowers, a special meal, or a massage, having a treat that first week back seems to ease the jump back.

I haven’t perfected returning to work from vacation, but I have managed to make the first step off the “board” less frightening. What do you do to ease out of vacation? Please share it in the comments.

Singable Stories: Take Me Home, Country Roads

John Denver's Greatest Hits

Image by thejcgerm via Flickr

Tomorrow I will be traveling back home after a wonderful family vacation. Though I will be flying, John Denver is running through my head. If you open the cover of John Denver’s “Take Me Home Country Roads”, adapted and illustrated by Christopher Canyon you are greeted with this quote:

Music makes pictures and often tells stories, all of it magic and all of it true. And all of the pictures and all of the stories, and all of the magic, the music is you. ~John Denver

While this is a children’s book, I believe it would work well in an intergenerational group. Watch the clip to find out why.

What are your impressions of this book? Share them in the comments.

Simplification in a Session

Simple

The week of August 1-7 is Simplify Your Life Week. As always, that has me asking questions.

  • How can simplification apply to my work?
  • How does simplification apply when working with older adults or children?
  • Does it apply to life with a young child?

In my work, simplification can take many forms. Accompaniments can be reduced even to the point of a simple rhythm on a drum. I can prepare less structure/plan allowing myself to flow with the clients during the session.

Working with older adults I have become aware of the need to decrease background noise. With many clients – old & young – less visual noise is also helpful. It can be easier to attend to a person or a task when there is less in your visual field.

At home, simplification can mean putting away some of the toys for a month. By rotating what is out and available, it keeps things fresh. It can also mean playing with simple blocks or containers

How do you bring simplification to you life? Your work?  Please share it now in the comments.

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