Music Care Stories Series: The positive impact of music in long term care settings

by Sarah Pearson

The Music Care Stories Series features interviews, guest writers, and other narratives from the front lines of caregiving. Told from the perspective of caregivers and receivers, these stories capture the unforgettable moments where music steps in and changes lives.

This story comes to us from the front lines of Long Term Care. Liza Timoon is currently enrolled in the final year of George Brown's Activation Coordinator / Gerontology program, and works as a Recreation Assistant in a LTC facility. Her story shows that you do not have to be a music care specialist to make meaningful connections with people using music. It is a great example of how music can improve the success of LTC programming, and significantly impact quality of life for residents.
I have witnessed the profoundly positive effects of music as a therapeutic intervention on many occasions. It has played an integral role within my own family as well as with professional clients.

In one particular insta
nce, it was the music of Al Jolson and Glenn Miller who helped me build a connection with a new resident at the facility where I was working. The resident had been showing signs of agitation, and engaging them in recreation programs was often unsuccessful.

After having di
scovered the resident had a taste for these musical artists, I came across some old LP's at home, which, coupled with my portable turntable, amounted to the perfect recipe for trying to engage the apprehensive resident. Initially I brought the record player and albums into their room, for us to enjoy in a one-on-one environment. As I entered their room, they appeared tired, contributing little to our conversation. I put the record on, and the scratching sound of the needle hitting the vinyl filled the room. Shortly after the music started, the resident began tapping their foot. This quickly turned into moving their arms and legs to the rhythm while singing along to the tune.

I was thrilled to see the positive impact the music was having on them. The record player was later brought into a communal room, to be enjoyed within a group environment, helping to reduce their isolation. This was also met with success, as not only did the resident leave their room and engage with the group through singing and dancing, but their mood for the rest of the afternoon appeared to be elevated with happiness and energy, exhibiting no signs of agitation. Music continues to play a large role in the care I provide for people, truly believing in its healing powers and ability to connect with individuals.

Some Takeaway from Liza's Story:

  1. Finding out about a resident/patient/client’s favourite music can help make an initial connection
  2. Musical listening groups in communal areas are easy-to-run programs that can reduce isolation, increase energy and improve mood for residents

Do you have a story you’d like to share? Email [email protected] with a short description of your experience. We will determine how best to share your story in this series.