Recently, the Grace Living residents had the opportunity to enjoy some beautiful music at a special concert put on by an amazing music therapist. Her name was Paula and she works with our hospice partner Buena Vista Hospice to help bring some joy to individuals who may be going through some hard times health-wise.
Paula's goal was simple: to remind our residents of a time, space or place where they were happy, able-bodied and ALIVE. Aside from the usual highs and lows of getting older, she understood that the isolation and depression brought about by this pandemic has certainly had a negative impact on everyone -- most especially seniors. Armed with her keyboard and her binders full of music sheets and lyrics, she set out to pour everything she had into her songs so that our residents could be transported to a time where they felt great, were able to forget all their aches and pains and just get lost in the magic of their favorite songs.
For many of our residents, music is the one thing that almost always puts them in a better mood. Singing or humming their favorite tune gets them through times where they are feeling pain or loneliness. For our residents with Alzheimers, hearing a certain tune brings back a flood of memories and almost immediately puts them at ease. Truly, "when words fail, music speaks" (Hans Christian Anderson).
It was so wonderful to see our residents' faces light up as they were singing along and jamming out with Paula and her keyboard. The music got our non-verbal residents to move to the beat, our hemiplegic resident to sing and move her right arm and leg and it even got our staff to join in on the fun.
Seeing the profound and immediate effect of Paula's music on our residents reminded me of a time when I was in the hospital with my dad. He was about a year into his fight with lung cancer and found himself back in the hospital with fluid in his lungs. Aside from the pain he was feeling, he was also extra crabby since he hadn't been able to have a bowel movement. As a guy who prides himself on being "extra regular", not being able to go was a big problem for him. Because of his weak condition, the nurses were trying to convince him to use bedpan or the commode. His pride convinced him neither were viable options for him. No one likes seeing their loved one suffer, so out of desperation, I decided to take out my iPad , open up Spotify and start playing his favorite music ("Sweet Caroline", "Green Green Grass of Home", "My Way", etc.) to get him out of his head. Sure enough, as the songs began to play and he began to sing along, his mood was instantly lifted. Suddenly, he felt the courage to try the commode. I immediately set it up, helped him out of bed and told him I'd just be outside of his room while he tried to go. I made sure his music kept playing and after a few minutes, I heard him yell, "Success!". Finally, after days of feeling self-conscious and constipated, he was finally able to have a bowel movement. To this day, I'm not sure who was more relieved -- him or me! Since then, and even in his final days on hospice, we had music constantly playing in the background to help him get through the uphill battle with cancer.
The late great Bob Marley once said, "One good thing about music is when it hits you, you feel no pain..." I have witnessed the truth of this statement firsthand and it is one of the reasons why we always have music playing at Grace Living.
So if you're having a hard day or a loved one is going through some health issues, try unlocking the magic of music. Whether it's a favorite song, a preferred genre or even just some calming classical or piano music, try incorporating music into your daily routine. Being able to press pause on life and the regularly scheduled programming to escape for a few moments into the nostalgia of a great song is such a gift and a powerful -- and, in my opinion, underutilized -- tool of self care. Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, cds, vinyls or the good 'ol radio are just a button away and can transport you to so many spaces and places! What are you favorite songs to help get you through the day? Comment below!