During the week of August 16th each year, Elvis Presley is remembered and celebrated as the King of Rock and Roll. Elvis died on August 16, 1977, and many of his most devoted fans make the trek to his Graceland home in Memphis to honor the fallen star.
A caregiver friend of mine told me that her family played Elvis’ version of “Peace in the Valley” at her Dad’s funeral, and several attendees mentioned it was the first time they had heard an Elvis song at a funeral! It was a gospel song her father loved and wanted played when they celebrated his life.
Elvis’ music has made a significant impact on many lives past and present. Music, in general, makes a difference in our lives, and music serves to soothe and stimulate senior souls.
I was reading an article by AgingCare that brought up a great point. Our bodies are instruments of rhythm. Our heartbeat, speech pattern, and our cycles of falling asleep and waking up are based on our very own bodily rhythms.
“From lullabies to funeral songs, music is a part of our lives from the moment we enter the world until the moment we leave it,” says Diane Snyder Cowan, former director of The Elisabeth Severance Prentiss Bereavement Center of Hospice of the Western Reserve in Cleveland, Ohio.
Music therapists frequently work with seniors in assisted living facilities, and long-term care, hospice, and palliative care settings to help residents with conditions like chronic pain and cognitive decline. Music reaches a portion of the brain that is more easily accessed than the area that recalls names, for example.
“The memory of the song stays with them much longer than regular memories,” says Snyder Cowen, a certified hospice and palliative care administrator, and board-certified music therapist.
In fact, seniors with dementia are typically more engaged when listening to music, and they are able to communicate better.
One Finnish study has shown that stroke survivors who were exposed to music for a period of time each day had a speedier recovery in terms of auditory and verbal memory, focused attention, and mood.
Another study in Germany found that exposure to relaxing music before open heart surgery had a strong calming effect on patients, as much or more than the commonly used sedative, midazolam. Post-surgery, music was shown to decrease levels of cortisol (stress hormone) in the patient’s blood with exposure to music for only 30 minutes a day during their recovery.
When it comes to music therapy during hospice care at the end of life, music therapists can play a key role.
“Depending on the unique needs and wishes of the elder and their family, a music therapist can help create a compilation CD of songs that have special meaning to the dying person to give as a legacy gift after they have passed. Therapists can also compose a song about the person’s life and select and play melodies meant to ease their physical and emotional pain throughout the dying process,” the AgingCare article states.
In cases of palliative care, music-thanatology is a type of music therapy used by specialists who closely monitor the patient’s vital signs and play the best musical selections to ease symptoms of pain, labored breathing, and sleeplessness.
I am a Certified Senior Advisor, not a music therapist. However, I understand the value of music therapy and I strongly encourage the compassionate caregivers I employ to routinely play their clients’ favorite tunes whenever possible and appropriate, whether it is Elvis Presley or Engelbert Humperdinck!
I welcome the opportunity to sit down for a FREE consultation and assessment of needs so I can review the many in-home care services Home Helpers® provides. I will answer all of your questions and ask some of my own to craft the perfect Cared-4℠ Customized Care Plan that is perfectly suited for you or your senior loved one to stay harmonious, happy, and healthy at home.
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