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During the recent Midwest Regional Music Therapy Conference in Overland Park, Kansas I heard a wonderful case study using music to assist with bathing which I shared in my post “Reflections on Music Therapy Conference”.  That has spurred me to think about how I have used music over the years in long-term care both as an activity staff member and as a music therapist . I have injected music into lots of events from horse racing to exercise to facility scabies scrub downs. As a music therapist, I know a ton of songs. That has worked to my advantage.

Having the staff involved in the music improved the response by the residents. Staff musically interacting with residents can make for a home like atmosphere, a sense of genuine compassion, and an energized facility. It can make everyday duties like ADLs or waiting for a meal less taxing.  Singing favorite songs for or with a resident dealing with a dementing diagnosis  can sometimes increase responsiveness. Given the limited number of long-term care facilities which employ a music therapist or contract music therapy services, I thought it would be nice to share songs the staff could join residents in singing. Know that song preferences change with resident, locale and facility.  With that in mind here is my Top Ten Songs to Know in Long-Term Care.

  1. Amazing Grace – An old church hymn many people know & sing
  2. Clementine – Folk song with chorus & verses. Songs with choruses allow for easier participation even if residents don’t remember the verses.
  3. Five Foot Two – This flapper song seems to get toes tapping and lots of facial expression whenever I use it. It is a great one for starting a talk about fashion.
  4. God Bless America – A patriotic number many older adults know well.
  5. Happy Birthday – Self explanatory, I hope!
  6. Let Me Call You Sweetheart – Old love song which can bring out waltzing type moves. You can also ask residents about other nicknames to substitute in the lyrics for sweetheart.
  7. Pack Up Your Troubles – While this WWI song seems too old, I find most people know it.
  8. She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain – Another folk song that can easily be changed up.
  9. Take Me Out to the Ball Game – Men & women alike know this song.
  10. You Are My Sunshine

Here are some other big favorites from my visits that you could also consider adding to your repertoire:

  1. America
  2. America the Beautiful
  3. April Showers
  4. Auld Lang Syne
  5. Beer Barrel Polka (Roll Out the Barrel)
  6. Home on the Range
  7. How Much is that Doggie in the Window
  8. I Want a Girl (Just Like the Girl)
  9. I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles
  10. I’m Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover
  11. I’ve Been Working on the Railroad
  12. In the Garden
  13. My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean
  14. My Wild Irish Rose
  15. Oh What a Beautiful Morning
  16. Oh, When the Saints
  17. Oh Susanna
  18. School Days
  19. Shine On Harvest Moon
  20. Show Me the Way to Go Home
  21. Side by Side
  22. Singing in the Rain – A good one for showers and baths.
  23. Tennessee Waltz
  24. When You Wore a Tulip
  25. Your Cheating Heart

I encourage you to  ask your residents about their favorite songs. You may be surprised by the answers. If you are interested in learning more about music therapy services in long-term care, I encourage you to look at these informative posts by Rachelle Norman, MA, MT-BC:

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