Saturday, November 7, 2015

Why Music??? (with low functioning, very sick individuals)?

Thanks for visiting topics and conversations. Here I want to address music therapy issues and concepts as they relate to education, musicianship and health and wellness.

In the past I've done blog posts with the theme “Why Music?” For this post I'd like to speak to music therapy (MT) professionals and students about the importance of (live) music low functioning, very sick individuals. 
I will start this post with a description of a recent music therapy experience to make this point... Last week I visited an elderly hospice patient at a dementia, extended care facility. Because this female patient is sleeping more as she declines, I often visit just before lunch to be with her in the facility's dining room. When I arrived this day my patient was at a table with two other women and with 8-10 other residents at other tables. The room was quiet with no one talking. As I sat at my patient's table with my guitar she gave me a very subtle smile, acknowledging that me being there with music was good. When I started playing a few residents started singing with me. Knowing my patient and what music specifically the residents knew and enjoyed, I played on. Into the second, third song and beyond most of the residents were singing and my patient was smiling, tapping her foot and softly clapping after each piece. The room had 90% more energy in it than prior to the live music. And not so much because I was playing and singing but because most of the people in the room were singing and enthused, smiling, making positive and often lucid comments (remember these are individuals with advanced dementia).

As a clinical music therapist for 20+ years, I am reminded often how beneficial live music is for very sick, low functioning, even non-responsive people. For example, I often tell students and colleagues that with end stage dementia patients, enriching stimulation like their favorite music (presented live so repertoire, volume, tempo and mood can be tailored to their needs) can be more important now than when they were not as sick.

Why is live music so important now, when they are very sick? A few reasons... First, when an individual's health declines to the point of needing total care they are often with others who are in a similar state of declined health, e.g., those in a dedicated Alzheimer's facility or unit. Here, most are non-responsive and/or very confused. This situation often dictates that low level or very limited stimulation is prevalent. So here they are, sick, confused, not at home, living with strangers and functioning lower than any time in their lives. They have less opportunities to engage productively with others and be stimulated when, ironically, they need it the most. And second, with low level or very limited stimulation, individuals have little motivation to think, remember, talk, sing, smile and engage, all of which can be triggered by the live music that they know and love. I know it is often easier engaging higher functioning clients in music therapy but again, it is important and can be so enriching for those who are in poor health and despair.

My prescription this week??? Go out of your way to provide very sick, low functioning, even non-responsive individuals with live music, tailored to their needs and background. Positive stimulation is rare for them now, and they really need it. Remember that live music that we can surround them with is at the very least comforting and at most, spiritual.

And don't forget about guitar CMTE courses from The Creative Clinician and Video Guitar Lessons for Music Therapy Students (and others of course).

As a reminder my second music album, i.e., Modern Music Learning For The School Aged Child will be out very soon. This is music for child development, autism and special needs.

In upcoming posts I will continue with other music therapy and musicianship related blog posts.

My prescription this week??? Grab your guitar, learn a song in a new genre for you and don't forget, The Creative Clinician and are here for support.

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