Music Tips for Long-term CareMany long-term caregivers have seen the video of Henry responding to music from his era. If using music in senior living communities was that easy, all residents would be issued an mp3 player upon admission.

The thing is, listening to music can be “both exquisite and excruciating, depending on your perspective.” Music preference is highly personal based upon our experiences and our exposure. For these reasons (among many other) care must be used in creating a playlist. There isn’t a one size fits all not even if people are the same age or from the same family.

And, music is more than listening. It can be participatory or social. Music can support movement and self-expression. Music can be many things.

With this in mind, here are 5 music tips for long-term care staff.

1. Think about why you are playing music.

Is it for the residents? the staff? the visitors? Knowing who the music is for assists you in selecting what is appropriate.

Are you playing it for a specific purpose? Determine the purpose and make sure the music supports it. A waltz may not encourage a vigorous workout. A Polka may not support relaxation at bedtime.

2. Limit the sound sources in the environment.

TV’s, radios, personal music, PA systems, people talking…there are sounds (or noise) everywhere! Hearing aids tend to amplifying all the sounds. Confused states can be increased by environmental sounds.

Have times where the sounds are off.

3. Learn what music people do enjoy and why.

Music preferences are often more specific than genres. It likely ALL country music or ALL jazz that someone likes. It is likely specific styles or performers. They might like some songs but not others.

And, people might enjoy a particular type of music for a reason. “It makes me think of my dad.” or “They played that at my wedding.” might be comments made for the same piece of music. Knowing the relationship a person has to a piece of music is helpful in knowing when to use it and when to avoid it.

Also, while we tend to think of people liking music from their late teens and their 20’s, they may have strong ties to other music.  Be open to asking about other options.

4. Be sensitive to the emotion or memory tied to music.

Sometimes we have such as strong emotion/memory to a piece of music, we can’t stand to listen to it. If you see someone with limited ability to verbalize becoming agitated, stop the song or remove them if possible.

Sometimes it is a sensitivity to a sound. I once had a client who became aggressive whenever an accordion (live or recorded) was played. Do the same song sans accordion, and he was calm.

5. Consider including a music therapist on your team.

Music therapists can assist you in assessing resident needs and interests. While you may not be able to include a music therapist on a regular basis, consider hiring one as a consultant.

To locate a music therapist in your area, visit the Certification Board for Music Therapists or the American Music Therapy Association. Both groups are there to ensure you find a qualified professional.

If you are in the Hays, Kansas area feel free to use the contact button on the left to reach me.

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