For caregivers at home, stress mounts, and little relieves the burden. You’re fulfilling a labor of love, but is there anything you can do to help lessen the weight of stress that seems to increase every week? There are many ideas out there, most of them the same, but one I’ve recently stumbled upon myself is the idea of using music to lessen your stress, to engage with your loved one; to use it as a kind of ‘therapy’, if you will.
Music is enchanting, and whatever type of music you love to listen to, no doubt when it plays, you’ll agree with me. But do you know what type of music your loved one likes to listen to? This is the first key to your music therapy together.
Find out what type of music your loved one cherishes
Especially for older ones with dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease, music can unlock the soul. Talk to your loved ones about happy times in their life, and find the music that reminds them of those times.
Younger ones and their seemingly innate technical skills can be useful in providing the second step of this musical program.
Engage all generations
Ask your caree’s grandchild or sibling to put together a play list on the iPod on Pandora radio, or to compile a CD on the computer. When family members share music, it creates emotional intimacy that wasn’t otherwise there.
Keep in mind, too, that distractions can impede a sense of joy.
Choose the right setting
Just listening to the radio together may not provide the key. Interruptions and commercials break into the peace that music brings. Remember the presentation of music can be important as well. Headphones, for instance, can be helpful in keeping out distractions for your loved one, or they may be unnerving for them. Use what works for your own situation.
Remember, there’s tremendous joy in seeing your loved one happy.
Giving is Getting
Finding the right music for yourself can lift your spirits, but watching your loved one revel in sounds and rhythms they love will no doubt make you even happier. Celia Pomerantz, author of A Mother’s Daughter’s Journey, came to realize her Puerto Rican mother loved a certain era of salsa music, so she created a special playlist for her. Celia was thrilled to see her mother, who was in a nursing home, transform into the woman residents called “the dancing queen.” How happy she was to see her mother dance in spite of her Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
There are many great ideas for caregivers at home about using music to enhance communication, ease stress, tap into the mind of someone with dementia. The ideas I shared with you today come from the new book from Sherri Snelling, called A Cast of Caregivers – Celebrity Stories to Help You Prepare to Care. Ms. Snelling says in her book that even those with famous names and faces struggle with the demands of caring for loved ones. Her book offers three distinct sections – the first features the author’s interviews with celebrities. The second section gives expert advice to help readers see the big picture of the caregiving role they face. The final section is dedicated to self-care and how to have the difficult caregiving conversation with a loved one. Snelling also discusses how to conquer the caregiving traps of increased stress, burn-out, guilt and depression.