Many aged care facilities are now using qualified music therapists to enhance the quality of life for older people in care, and this is to be commended. There is also plenty of evidence that the right music for certain people particularly those who have dementia is good therapy. To find out more about the work of music therapists check out the work of Australian practitioner Ruth Bright here which is a good reference for you.
However having a music therapist on call a 24/7 is not feasible. So it is up to the care staff and in particular, recreation staff to use music as a tool for providing quality of life experiences as well as mental stimulation and enjoyment for their residents.
How do we know what is the right music for the residents at a particular facility? What is the quality of resources and methods of making this music? How do we evaluate music programs? Why is a certain type of music popular and another not and who makes that decision?
Person-centred care is now becoming a commonly used term. Do we pay lip service to this concept or de we look at it critically and see how this can be related to providing person-centred music programs? Music can be used as a tool for providing one-on-one intervention for a person who is distressed, bored or frustrated. Two examples- I had one resident who appeared angry and aggressive quite often. She loved the music I had used previously, and knew all the songs. I would set her up with an Evergreen CD and a small player and she would spend the next hour listening and singing softly all the songs and her dark mood would disappear. I had another very deaf resident who no longer was able to enjoy music or TV. I set her up with headphones and a UTube selection and the joy on her face as she connected with the sounds of songs she knew was heartening.
A good way to answer how to do person-centred music therapy is to ensure that we look individually at each person in a facility and be more specific in asking questions around the love of/or dislike of certain types of music (or even having no love of any music at all! ). Choices and preferences of each resident living in their home where we work are paramount. A humane way to finding out the answers is to build up a portrait of each resident over a period time taking note of changes as these occur. Family and friends can help to build up this portrait. This means finding out a lot more that is presented in the standard documentation and should include music background and tastes.
Some managers have commented that the old style of sing along music is a bit outdated. However I have found that this music is still popular e.g. red and blue Ulverscroft books. The main reason for this is increased longevity rates -many residents are living longer well into the nineties and beyond so the songs are still relevant for them. Many have learnt the songs at school (as I did) through the ABC singing for schools and we had songbooks 1940’2 to 1950’s. Here is a reference on school singing http://www.abc.net.au/learn/sing/about.htm
Older residents, many who might have dementia will respond well to the older style of traditional sing-along music because of the long term memory that may well be intact. Using the songbooks encourages residents to retain their reading skills. I have observed a resident who walked around the facility singing tunelessly and no longer spoke. When she joined the singalong group she could sing the songs and felt good about joining in. One facility I visited recently had started a choir and this was very popular. For more inspirational information type in Dementia the musical on your browser.
Popular Western music from the 20’s to the 70’s including dance music, jazz, religious, musicals, ballads, music from movies, rockn’roll and county western is very popular for people coming from Anglo Australian backgrounds and also people who have lived in Australia a long time. It is essential to lock into the music of people we work with especially those from a NESB -this area will continue to grow as the older people from our multicultural society become our clients. We should also consider teaching our care staff who come from different countries the music and songs of the residents whose care they attend so they can join in.
It is also possible a small group of people in a facility who really enjoy classical music and opera feel marginalized as most residents have dementia. Having a music appreciation session group based on resident interest can provide a normalizing and enjoyable experience. Consider finding a volunteer who could do this. When I worked for AANSW with clients who had early dementia, clients would bring in a favourite music CD to play and discuss. Sessions on a composer, a performer or an opera using the music, a movie or a selection from UTube are invaluable in increasing the cultural level at the facility. I have written many programs with a story and quiz and memory questions that have been very successful over the years.
Check my website for books on reminiscing laurettakaldor.com.au all include some music programs.
When booking entertainers (fee paying or volunteers) do not invite a return visit unless the entertainer is truly doing that –entertaining. I have seen many terrible entertainers in my time that should never have been invited back! If possible have the entertainer spend some time visiting the rooms of those who could not attend the concert.
I have used Evergreen melodies now for many years. The singalong CD with the song file has been very popular. I also use it for gentle movement and relaxation.
The Red and Blue Book CD Collections would be a really worthwhile investment in providing good musical activities for your residents.