written by Carol Brett and published in the WORDS OF WISDOM magizine first quarter 2015 edition
There’s a quiet revolution happening in aged care. It’s called Person Centred Care and according to Aged Care Music Resources’ Graeme Pope it’s a welcome and long-overdue way of thinking.
At its core, Person Centred Care acknowledges elderly residents as individuals with unique likes, interests, passions and pasts. It understands the human value of individuality and appreciates that maintaining or losing the connection with ‘self’ significantly impacts a person’s mental and physical wellbeing.
“Staying connected with the things you’ve enjoyed throughout your life is so important in your elder years,” says Graeme.
“That’s something I’ve always known but it’s terrific to see it now being supported by research. It’s the reason I created Aged Care Music Resources and the philosophy that supports everything the business does and every resource it creates.
“Having the term ‘Person Centred Care’ in circulation is great. It puts a label on a certain way of thinking and makes that thinking part of the conversation and a genuine model for people to follow,” he says.
What Matters Most to the Elderly
Graeme believes, when it comes to elderly people’s contentment and wellbeing, it’s never the big things that matter most. It’s always the small things, such as someone’s love and memories around family or their interest and passion for things like animals and nature, art and craft, or music and dancing.
“These become the things that bring a smile to elderly faces and make life worthwhile, even for those with pain, diminished independence and mobility or conditions like Alzheimer’s disease or dementia,” he says.
Driven by the knowledge that music makes a world of difference to the elderly, Graeme has spent the past 12 years spreading the word about music’s value, producing and recording the music of Australian artists, and creating music-based resources for use in aged care.
During this time he’s travelled the length and breadth of Australia visiting aged care and retirement facilities in order to meet and talk with residents, carers, therapists, and activities and lifestyle coordinators to learn more about their needs.
“There are so many different scenarios out there,” Graeme says.
“It’s wonderful when things are done well and you know people are being acknowledged and respected as individuals, and it’s heartbreaking when you don’t.
“I often see a disconnect between the music and entertainment elderly people love and the music and entertainment that’s chosen for them.
“When things are out of step, instead of seeing residents engaged and enjoying activities which reflect their tastes and preferences, I’ll see them sitting blank-faced in front of TV screens completely disengaged and lost. It’s really quite depressing and distressing to witness.
“On the flipside, there’s nothing more wonderful than seeing elderly faces light up at the sound of a familiar melody played just the way they like it,” he says.
Why Music is Key in Care
With more and more studies proving the importance of music to the elderly, there’s little doubt the right kind of music can lift spirits and promote positive communication and social interaction in elderly communities.
In many cases, and perhaps most importantly, music can even lessen the reliance on medication as a means of behavioral control and mood regulation.
“Music is like a tonic to the elderly, and it’s so sad that older people have less opportunity to listen to the music they really value,” says Graeme.
“Research shows, music heard in early life (between the ages of 10 and 30) encodes a type of musical grammar which remains throughout your life.
“This means, for people currently aged over 70, the most relevant style of music is the type that was communicated via sheet music, played on solo pianos, and enjoyed communally in settings such as sing-alongs, dancehalls and theatres.
“This is the music that will produce the most autobiographical, vivid and important memories. This is the music that will bring the greatest joy,” Graeme says.
Resources to Engage the Mind, Body and Soul
Wanting to benefit individuals on a whole-person scale, Aged Care Music Resources draws on the expertise of diversional and music therapists as well as a range of other professionals to design, develop and produce high quality and hard-working music resources.
The aim is not only to provide easy listening and entertainment for the elderly, but also to support aged care professionals in their delivery of varied movement, mental-stimulation, memory and recreational sessions.
Testament to this working-with-industry approach is the company’s most recent resource, The Red and Blue Book CD Collection, which was released in July this year.
The boxed, two-volume set comprises 19 CDs and was developed in direct response to requests from the aged care industry.
“I have received so many requests over the years for music to accompany the ubiquitous Red and Blue Large Print Song Books by Ulverscroft,” says Graeme.
“When those books were first published, 40 years ago, just about every aged care facility had a piano. They also had plenty of residents who could follow the sheet music and provide musical accompaniment for sing-alongs.
“But things are very different now. These days, with fewer pianos and even fewer residents and volunteers who can play them, sing-alongs have become more rare, even though the residents would love nothing more than to sing, sway and take a trip down memory lane with their heyday songs.
“Understanding the importance of those two books and knowing the benefits of singing, we undertook the massive task of creating a fully indexed musical resource practitioners could use in their sessions.
“Comprising 381 custom arranged and recorded tracks and taking a full two years to produce, it’s been our largest undertaking to date but it’s a flagship resource for us and one we’re most proud of,” Graeme says.
Other resources by the Melbourne-based company include movement-to-music programs, memory games, song quizzes and easy listening music CDs. The company is also developing a training series to educate practitioners about how to get the most from music in their sessions.
Would you like to know more?
For more information about Aged Care Music Resources’ and its resources, please visit www.agedcaremusicresources.com or give a call on 1300 971 647 (International: +61 3 5428 7071) or mobile: 0430 760 556 (International: +61 430 760 556.