Additional Thoughts about Therapeutic Music in the Healthcare Environment

HealthcareThis will be our last blog post in this on-going series of discussing therapeutic music in the healthcare setting. I have a few thoughts or observations from doing this work since 1996 (yes, it’s really been that long!):

  • Sometimes I am not told much about the patient, the family and/or their situation. Even without information, I am amazed at the miracles that occur at the bedside with the harp. It is an intuitive process and unfolds as it is supposed to.
  • Not usually, but occasionally, patients refuse harp therapy. This is one thing patients are empowered to say yes or no. While patients can’t say “no” to a nurse, they are empowered to make a choice about music. If they say no, I never take it personally.
  • Patients, families and staff – all benefit from the musical bedside experience. Sometimes, the caregivers or staff need the music as much as anyone.

It has been our joy to share examples and stories over the past several weeks/months about this beautiful work that we are so passionate about. Please contact us if you’d like more information.

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Grief in the Hospital and Music’s Role

Music and griefGrief can be a common emotion in the hospital setting. What role does music play? Read on …

Before I entered the patient’s room with my harp, I was told the mother (patient) and daughter (caregiver in the room) were grieving. One of the first things they said to me was they lost a son/brother four months ago. I’m not sure what the mother’s physical illness was (the reason she was hospitalized) but I had the sense that whatever it was was completely predicated by grief and sadness. There was a heaviness, a deep sorrow prevalent in their room.

I used the musical principle of Inclusive Attention. (Inclusive Attention is the art of being attentive to the patient and modifying the music to accommodate for the mental, emotional, physical, and/or spiritual state. It is asking, “What is meeting me here? What am I observing? How do I need to respond?” The heaviness of grief, mourning, and intense sadness is appropriately met with music that is sad, melancholic, and minor. This is contrary to what many people think, but by meeting grief with sad, melancholic music, you acknowledge and honor the patient’s condition or situation and give him or her permission to feel and release the feelings.)

I played music that was quite somber for this mother and daughter. As tears flowed and the feelings of grief and mourning began to lift slightly, it was appropriate to transition the music very slowly from minor keys into major keys. The mood and the music shifted, ebbing and flowing between minor and major. (This is a sub-conscious way of demonstrating that it is vital to feel/express sorrow and dark feelings, as well as OK to feel hope and lightness, sometimes within seconds/minutes of each other … all a natural part of the grieving process.)

I ended our harp therapy session with Amazing Grace which felt like an important connection for them, as well as connecting with their transitioned loved one. While I was playing, I also had the feeling that this mother’s son was hovering above her shoulders and crown chakra. I mentioned this to the mother as I left and she hugged me saying, “This gives me so much comfort. Thank you…”

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Music for Caregivers, too

CaregivingThe following story highlights how music can benefit the caregiver, as much as the patient.

Right before I entered the hospital room with my harp, the patient and her spouse had just had a discussion of “no code” status.

The husband (caregiver) was sitting at his wife’s shoulder and I set up my harp right next to him so I could see both the patient and him.  At times, I felt like I was playing as much to him as I was for his wife … he “drank in” the music!

At one point, the patient turned to her husband and their eyes locked. Within these few moments of deep connection, they expressed a lifetime. It was beautiful to witness, as well as facilitate with this paradoxical instrument that is so gentle, yet so powerful.

As I was leaving, the husband said, “Thank you! I believe I enjoyed the music as much, and maybe more than my wife!”

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Music’s role in the caregiving journey

Today, more than 50 million family caregivers provide care for aging adults and as former First Lady Rosalynn Carter says, “There are four kinds of people in this world: 1) those who have been caregivers, 2) those who currently are caregivers, 3) those who will be caregivers, and 4) those who will need caregivers.”

It seems like so many people that I come in contact with are involved in the caregiving journey. Is it our age or a sign of the times we live in? And honestly, I’m no different from the masses – the caregiving journey touches me personally, too.

My parents recently moved into an assisted living complex. It has been an interesting few months for our family – aging parents and baby boomer “children” giving care, including conversations about finances and health care directives, down-sizing personal belongings and ultimately, assisting with the actual move into a beautiful new location.

Throughout the caregiving journey, music can be a powerful way to connect. From listening to big band sounds or classical favorites or relaxing music to “idol down,” music is an easy way to enhance your life, as well as those you are caring for.

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