Music to their ears: Quality of Life at Carewest

Kristin McVeigh | March 31, 2014

Music Therapy at CarewestMusic is an incredibly powerful art form that evokes emotions and memories unlike anything else. On its own listening to a particular song can bring us back to a time in our lives we had long forgotten or make your heart swell with happiness but when it's paired with a dedicated music therapist the impact can be profound.    

Kathryn Daniels is the music therapist who runs the popular music therapy at six Carewest sites as part of the Quality of Life program. Her excitement for the program is contagious, and she is happy to tell you she has her "dream job".

The sessions incorporate participation and fun with physical and mentally therapeutic aspects. She facilitates a wide range of activities with her guitar and other instruments and provides concert DVDs and musicals for residents to watch. Recently, thanks to donors, Calgary Health Trust was able to donate MP3 players for the residents to use.

"I do any calendar event that I can, to mark the time of the year," Kathryn explains about her group sessions. "Today, we were talking about spring." That included singing songs of that theme, engaging in conversations about birds and flowers that come out this time of year and looking at photos of beautiful fields of flowers and baby animals. Other topics Kathryn has done recently are St. Patrick's Day, favourite drinks, animals and Valentine's Day.

Music therapy is also available individually for residents who physically aren't able to leave their rooms. When working one-to-one, Kathryn will find out their favourite music, which can be all the way from 40s and 50s era to modern songs, and everything in between. She recently had a resident introduce her to heavy metal and AC/DC. 

Keith is one resident who really enjoys his time in the group sessions. "My dad played the violin... I used to play the piano and my sister's husband also played the violin," he explained. The music program allows him to maintain his love of music.

Rae, who had just been at the morning's spring-themed music therapy session, held a rainmaker instrument close to her ear and told us about all the birds they had just talked about. She also spoke of how some songs they had sung reminded her of memories she had with her family. Nancy and Juanita were going to be enjoying the music therapy sessions that afternoon. They, along with Kathryn, sang "Springtime in the Rockies." It was obvious how much joy the singing brought to these ladies.

"Sometimes when you aren't feeling well, you can go and feel good," said Nancy adding that she looks forward to the music sessions all week.

The effects of music therapy are diverse and sometimes surprising. Kathryn was working with a man who wanted to listen to Metallica. Because he remembered listening to it when he used to work out he wanted to grab some weights. Kathryn was then able to coordinate with the Occupational Therapists and find out what exercises he should do, so when he was doing the music therapy, he could also perform exercises that would help with his physical health.

At the Fanning Centre Kathryn was able to help a woman who was pulling at her cords while she was in hemodialysis. Through the help of music therapy with Kathryn, and listening to an iPod when Kathryn is not around, the resident is now able to sit through her treatments without staff having to worry about her safety. They will be able to use their new MP3 players to help with similar situations.

Music therapy is part of Quality of Life programing at Carewest. Quality of Life programming encpmpasses activities, technology and mobility supports that contribute to the enjoyment of living, social engagement and well-being of Carewest residents and clients.  If you have additional interest or questions about this program please contact Cindy Drummond, Development Officer, Carewest and Community or call at 403-943-0623.

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