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music holds the key...

Rachel Petersen

Week of 7/16-7/20

My first week at Tacoma Lutheran Retirement Community primarily consisted of training, which will set me up to work more independently. At our first meeting on July 12 th we established what I will be doing during my time here and a schedule. Megumi, the music therapist, gave me administrative tasks to take home (correcting documents and creating a spreadsheet where we can input data from patients) to help the program function smoothly. This week I had been working alongside Mercedes for training, who works in the life enrichment program. I began to familiarize myself with the residents taking part in the Music and Memory program. I had the opportunity to interview residents who were potential participants. This included explaining what the program is and getting to know them and their musical preferences. On Thursday Mercedes showed me the equipment we will be using and I began creating playlists for the new participants. Next week I am going back to begin the distribution of the equipment to the residents. I will have a form that I fill out to describe how the resident reacts to the music playlist. Although I had been working around Mercedes’ schedule this week, I hope to gain a more consistent schedule after next week, as I will be more trained and can work more independently with the program.


Week of 7/30 - 8/2

This week at Tacoma Lutheran we have been adding more participants to the music and memory program. When I started, we were just at 9 residents, and now we have 14 who agreed to participate (and more coming hopefully). This is exciting to me since for different reasons, it has been difficult to find willing participants for the Music & Memory program. When we do get a new participant, I get to know them and often they have a hard time remembering which artists they liked. The “Music Matrix Sheet”, which is a document with different genres and artists, has been a huge help in sparking some of the musical memories of the residents. Many times, I’ll say a name off of the list and then a resident has a story of their own personal connection with that music or artist. This has been a huge help in constructing these personalized playlists for residents. When I first became introduced to this program, I thought it would’ve been only for people with dementia or memory loss in general. Since I’ve been here, I’ve seen the program being used for more than just that. Music has been used here as a tool to help people who suffer from pain and people who are non-verbal on top of aiding with memory. So far, I have seen people who suffer from tremendous amounts of pain begin to smile again, and even let out a giggle. I was even shocked to see a resident who is non-verbal begin to hum to the music and try to sing along to a Johnny Cash song. The results we are getting as we get further along into the program have been much more than I expected.


Week of 8/6 - 8/10

These past few days have been busy. On Tuesday, I really focused on trying to see some of the residents whom I haven’t worked with yet, just so I can be familiar with everyone. One participant noted how lovely that it was because it took her back to her childhood, and that everyone in this facility should have a music player. After meeting with the Music Therapist Thursday, I got more clarity about the work we were doing. We decided to revise a few things so that we can better analyze how the program is working. Instead of just documenting on the patient response sheet (which is how we document how the respond on a scale of 1-10 on different aspects) during the session, I rearranged the sheet, so we can do a before and after scale. We would put how agitated they seemed at the beginning of the listening session, and then how agitated they seemed after the music session. I hope that this small change will help make the effectiveness of the program clearer. Since we now have 15 residents participating in the Music and Memory program, we decided we would need more volunteers to accommodate this increase. We are aiming towards visiting each participant at least once a week with their playlist. Once we get a few more volunteers, we hope to expand to Alpine, which will be more geared towards working with people with severe memory loss.


Week of 8/13 - 8/16

So far, we have been adjusting to the updates we decided to make for the Music and Memory program. With 15 residents that have been willing to participate, it has been busy trying to make sure that everyone has gotten equal time with their personalized playlists. On Tuesday, I spent time with Mercedes re-designing the flyer for the program that will be put around the building to advertise to the residents and their families. This is great timing for this to be done since we will soon expand to Alpine, the dementia and Alzheimer’s unit. Our hope is that there will be family of the Alpine residents interested in signing them up for the Music and Memory program. After spending time watching some of Teepa Snow’s videos, a dementia and Alzheimer’s care expert, I have been better prepared to communicate with the residents in Alpine. I was also at the facility on Wednesday, which was spent going out to get more visits in with the participants. This was my first time using the new Patient Response form that we designed to compare the beginning and the end of the music session. From my experience with it so far, I believe it will highlight how effective the program is, especially at improving a resident’s mood and agitation levels.


Final summer 2018

Wednesday I was walking around the facility looking to see who would be available to listen to their playlist. I spot one of the participants sitting in the hallway by her room. Trudy (not her real name) was one of the first residents to sign up for the Music & Memory program. Her playlist is a mix of Benny Goodman, Frank Sinatra, and some Glenn Miller. She loves swing and jazz, as she grew up in the 30s-40s era. Each time she listens, there's always a consistent physical reaction like foot tapping and rocking back and forth. When I ask her if she would like to listen to her music, she always replies in ways that don't make much sense. Regardless of this, she does accept. On Wednesday I noticed something different in her once I placed her headphones across her ears. She began smiling and nodding, and I ask if the volume is good for her. She replies with, "It's lovely!”. This was surprising because she was making sense to me finally, and she became very aware of what was going on around her. After staying with her for a few minutes, I tell her that I'll be back to check on her. I go back to the room where the life enrichment staff work on the computer. As I'm working, out of the corner of my eye I see Trudy scooting her wheelchair down the hallway to the music. She seems to be more willing to move around when she has her music on. When I check back on her, the nurse tells me how great this music is for her, as it gets her moods up, and gets her moving around on her own. 

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