Music Therapy at Episcopal Homes
Have you seen Melissa, Episcopal Home’s music therapist out in the courtyard playing her guitar with an elder or wheeling her cart full of instruments through the hallways and thought, “how fun” or “how relaxing”? You might be surprised to hear that the actual songs and enjoyment of the music are just the tip of the ice-burg so to speak with the work she does here.
Check out this Intergenerational Music Therapy video
Music is a part of everyday life. For elders, music often played an even bigger role as a primary source of entertainment and interaction: playing instruments together as a family, dancing, or singing in the choir. As such, music can be a fun and nonthreatening way to address nonmusical physical, cognitive, social, emotional, and spiritual needs.
Music Therapy in Rehabilitation
One elder had a therapy goal to stand for 15 minutes, a challenging task and one that is rather tedious. To develop this ability, Melissa had her playing a elevated 30” table drum while moving her arms different ways: reaching across to the far side of the drum, alternating hands, playing in different patterns… with live music. While this may have appeared fairly simple, there was a lot going on there. The steady beat in the music helped to recruit motor neurons so muscles worked more efficiently and accurately, and the elder didn’t fatigue as fast, didn’t need as much recovery time, and didn’t perceive as much discomfort. Playing the drum while standing provided the structure for dynamic movement, challenging balance more and making the task more difficult.
The music also provided a distraction from therapy, helped her “push through” when she typically would quit and sit down, and made rehabilitation more fun than simple repetitions of exercises or just trying to stand for 15 minutes. A crowd gathered to watch and started dancing along! Cheryl, OTR/L commented “She is a lot more motivated and willing to do a lot more during co-treatment sessions then when we are working alone”; “she’s blossomed with music therapy”.
Parkinson’s Therapy Group
A group that meets weekly Thursdays 10:30-11:30 addresses the unique needs of people with Parkinson’s disease. During this group elders with Parkinson’s disease come together from across the Episcopal Homes campus to work on speech, posture, movement, and the many emotional and spiritual issues associated with Parkinson’s. One elder in the group stated “I like to think of this group as a club, where we can enjoy the company and support of others while doing things that are good for our body and mind”. Another elder mentioned that Thursdays were his favorite day because it’s group day.
Back in May and June this group wrote a song together from scratch they entitled “Side By Side, We’re Stronger Together”. In the song they talk about the support they receive from the group, what it’s like to have Parkinson’s, and what they have learned and gained in this journey.
Every week they request to sing the song together. Even more important than the song itself though, was the process of writing it. Each elder contributed to the song sharing their thoughts, feelings, and opinions. Whole sessions were spent talking about the issues in each verse or chorus.
The group came up with a list of things they learned in the process: what other people think and feel; that we are not alone in this; we are all different but we are alike; Parkinson’s isn’t going away, but we can learn to work with it and decrease symptoms; we choose our attitude: you can look at things two different ways and can redirect energy and thoughts; we will not give up, we are tenacious; we will triumph over weakness, fear, loneliness, and boredom by being together; it’s ok to ask for help; life is a gift, we should make the best of it!; we have many lyricists and other strengths and talents in our group; and that we can change for the good.
Parkinson’s Caregiver Group
Melissa and Keely Morgan, director of spiritual life, started a caregiver support group for those with loved ones that have Parkinson’s. This group meets monthly the first Thursday of the month. The group meets in Coventry Chapel in Cornelia House 3:30-4:30.
More About Music Therapy
To learn more about the training of board certified music therapists (MT-BC) and the many things they can do to enhance the quality of life of those they serve go to: