‘Travelling’ guitarist engages residents who need music therapy most

Musician Jim Ryan will play guitar for residents one on one or while walking down hallways

When local musician Jim Ryan visits Garden Terrace, he tries to spend as much time as he can with those residents who are affected by cognitive impairment, playing guitar for them in their rooms.

Sometimes he will stroll up and down the hallways of the neighbourhoods where residents affected by cognitive impairment live, playing his guitar for their enjoyment. He typically spends about 30 minutes in each neighbourhood.

With pandemic restrictions easing this year, music therapy and live entertainment are areas of daily life the home is ramping up, and guests like Jim bring great value to residents, says Garden Terrace life enrichment co-ordinator Shannon Boisvenue.

Music can provide many benefits to people living with cognitive impairment, Shannon says. Music has the power to lighten moods, ease agitation and leave people feeling uplifted.

Jim has experience offering his music therapy services to people living with cognitive impairment, and his visits are meaningful to the residents of the Kanata, Ont. long-term care home, Shannon notes, adding Jim’s performances “are like travelling music.”

Shannon says many residents affected by cognitive impairment find it difficult to participate in larger programs, so having Jim visit the home with his guitar provides an important service.

And Jim also enjoys playing for people one on one.

“Some people prefer to play for a larger crowd, but he is really into this,” Shannon says.

“(His music therapy) has been something that has been really well received and I think we will continue to do this moving forward.”

The benefits of music therapy for people with cognitive impairment are well documented, and according to the U.S.-based Mayo Clinic, music therapy can benefit both people affected by dementia and their caregivers.

“Research suggests that listening to or singing songs can provide emotional and behavioral benefits for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia,” the Mayo Clinic states on its website.

“Music can also benefit caregivers by reducing anxiety and distress, lightening the mood, and providing a way to connect with loved ones who have Alzheimer’s disease – especially those who have difficulty communicating.”

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Pandemic prompts Burnbrae life enrichment team to invent new programming

A Mardi Gras activity and a music program are among the life enrichment team’s creations since safety restrictions have been in place

Necessity, as the old saying goes, is the mother of invention, and since the global COVID-19 pandemic began a year ago, Burnbrae Gardens life enrichment team members have had to tap into their creativity to develop meaningful programs for residents to enjoy.

And April Faux, the Campbellford, Ont. long-term care home’s administrator and life enrichment co-ordinator, says the life enrichment staff has answered the challenge by coming up with fun programs for residents that enhance their quality of life while adhering to protocols to keep everyone safe during the pandemic.

In February, life enrichment aide (LEA) and physiotherapy assistant Lauren Farnham organized a Mardi Gras party – something the home had never done before – complete with music and props such as Mardi Gras beads and refreshments.

The event sparked a lot of interest from residents, April says, adding Lauren was able to run the program for all residents who wanted to join the fun by having small groups take turns participating at different intervals.

For residents who stayed in their rooms, the LEAs would bring them a treat, such as a non-alcoholic margarita, to ensure they were still included in the activity.

“Residents loved the Mardi Gras program,” April says.

Another LEA, Shawna Booth, started a music program in September called Music Appreciation.

As part of this program, Shawna plays different types of music and encourages residents to dance and exercise. Each time the program runs there will be a different theme of music for residents to enjoy. The music is based on residents’ musical interests.

Like the Mardi Gras program, the music program is only done with small groups of residents.

“We have had to reach outside the box because we used to have so much live entertainment, but we can’t have that right now, so we’re having to be a bit more creative, which is good for everyone and it’s (providing) new programs for the residents,” April says.

– More to come

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The power of music brings Springdale residents together

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Ukulele program bringing everyone together at Forest Hill

Life enrichment aide Shannon Lynch (left) and personal support worker Becky Smith (right) join outreach worker France Jalbert (centre) as she plays her ukulele for residents at Forest Hill.

Life enrichment aide Shannon Lynch (left) and resident Dawn Hamelin (right) join outreach worker France Jalbert (centre) as she plays her ukulele for residents at Forest Hill.

‘Music is such a wonderful, rewarding therapy for residents’

One day last winter when France Jalbert was visiting Forest Hill, she decided to play a ukulele to see how the residents she works with would react. They loved it.

Jalbert is an outreach worker for Total Communication Environment (TCE), a nonprofit organization providing supports and services to people with multiple disabilities and special communication needs living in long-term care homes and other settings.

She is often at the Kanata long-term care home working with residents who have special needs. On this particular day, life enrichment aide Shannon Lynch heard Jalbert playing the ukulele and saw the positive impact it was having on residents.

Lynch decided to bring some of the residents she works with to join Jalbert and the residents she works with to form a program, called Ukulele Sing Along with France.

Since then, Jalbert and Lynch have hosted the program twice per week.

“Music is such a wonderful, rewarding therapy for residents, so I asked France if she would consider teaming up to do a program and she said she would. It has really taken off from there,” Lynch tells The OMNIway.

Lynch brought a collection of old instruments tucked away in a storage area at the home and handed them out to residents. Residents used tambourines and other instruments to follow the rhythm of Jalbert’s ukulele.

Jalbert and Lynch say the music program benefits both residents with special needs and those who are living with cognitive impairment. Being able to express themselves through music also helps ease anxiety and agitation for residents, they say.

“(The music) captivates residents’ attention,” Jalbert says. “It’s a multisensory activity where everybody can participate. When (the residents) are playing along to music, they will be successful. The music will also sometimes bring out emotions they have that they can’t express.

“Everything about this program is positive.”

The program is even having a positive impact on staff members. Lynch says nurses and personal support workers sometimes stop by because they find the program is a stress reliever for them.

“People will often stop me in the hall and ask, ‘Is it music day?’ They get a lot of joy from this, too,” Lynch says.

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