Training leads to creation of music care pillar

by Deb Bartlett

What Maureen Flynn learned in Music Care Training affected her so greatly that she embedded music care as one of four pillars of care at Acclaim Health’s Alzheimer’s Services Department. Every club member there has a care plan, in which music is a component.

Maureen is the supervisor for the program in the Region of Halton. She found Room 217 when she was looking for resources for the program. Her first interaction was at a Music Care Conference, where she was “reeled in” by Bev Foster’s passion and vision, and by the musicians that are always part of a Room 217 conference. “It was phenomenal to me to be in a room where everyone understands the power of music. That was empowering to me.”

After conference, Maureen signed up for the Music Care Training; she and colleague Ashlee Markle have since completed all three levels, and are Room 217 music care advocates.

Maureen supervises up to 15 people at two sites, and says 100 per cent of her staff have taken some sort of training with Room 217. Minimally, it’s been webinars and the Pathways tutorials. About 40 per cent of the staff have taken Music Care Training Levels 1 and 2. She acknowledges that it’s expensive, between the cost and the backfilling for staff, but she makes sure she builds Music Care Training for two team members into every budget – that’s how much she values what’s taught in the course, and in turn, how it positively impacts the club members.

What Acclaim staff have learned has led to the creation of the program’s four pillars of care, which includes music as part of every member’s care plan, to bring music to them in a way that is meaningful, and personal. The team also begun paying more attention to the site’s soundscape; they no longer use music in the background – music can complement an activity, and must be approved as part of programming. The program used to play songs with lyrics at mealtimes (which Maureen describes as “chaos”) to Room 217’s instrumental-only CDs. Maureen says members were struggling to listen to the music, were trying to sing while eating, and were unable to chat over the music. She finds the Room 217 music calming; members can enjoy the music, and it’s not competing with conversation at the table.

Maureen knows that music helps club members by tapping into their memories, and “music can move people emotionally and physically” – it’s used in the day program to get people active. It’s also part of “date night” at the club. Members can come back with their spouses and eat a catered meal, served by staff members dressed as servers. The first date nights featured live entertainment and the guests focussed on the performers, not each other. Now date night features Room 217 music, which not only saves money, but shifts the focus from entertainment to the table, conversation, and dancing. Of all the work she’s done at the program, incorporating music care is what she’s most proud of.

She’s also seen staff members be rejuvenated after Music Care Training. Maureen knows her team loves what they do, but everybody in the field sometimes “gets stuck”. She’s found after taking the training, staff members have “a resurgence of passion…they are reinventing themselves.”

She is such a fan of Room 217’s Pathways singing program for memory care that she ensures it’s running whenever a tour is coming through the site. She says there’s definitely a “wow factor” when people see how engaged the members are during the program.

Through the training, Maureen has also reconnected personally with music. She studied music through high school, and played an instrument, but admits that it was the prose of lyrics, not the actual music that was meaningful to her. Now she appreciates the music, and how one’s reaction to it can be unpredictable at times. She has a heightened awareness of how music can move people emotionally. Maureen says she can “go somewhere else through music” in ways that even books no longer can.

Her husband and four children are either working as, or studying to be, engineers – they are linear and logical thinkers. She’s been able to share information about how much of the decision-making process is based on what you’re feeling, and how music can impact emotions. The family has created playlists for different parts of their days, to take advantage of music’s ability to motivate, or calm.

During the Level 3 intensive day, held at Room 217’s office in Port Perry, Maureen participated in the creation of a Music Care Training promotional video. Check out the video to see all the amazing work that is being done by Level 3 music care advocates.