Hyland Crest launches music therapy program
By Jenn Watt
After successfully beta testing a music program for people with dementia, Minden’s long-term care home will now offer the full video series to residents as part of their activity complement.
Pathways, developed by not-for-profit music foundation Room 217, is a series of videos featuring a host who guides viewers through classic songs with rich imagery and subtitles. While it was created to trigger long-term memory and activate different parts of the brain for those with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia, nursing homes have found that it is useful for all residents.
“The people who made this music program are a music therapy organization. They started dreaming this up in 2011. It’s taken them a long time to get it all together and we beta tested – that’s how we got to listen to it all summer,” says volunteer Pat Bradley.
Hyland Crest was one of 30 locations chosen to beta test the program with positive results.
“They just love it,” says activity aide Vicki Colicchia. “For some it does encourage them to talk and have conversations.”
On Friday, Dec. 4, Hyland Crest celebrated the launch of the full Pathways program and its integration into regular activities at the home.
Since each session has a theme, for the party, they chose Caribbean music with volunteers and staff dressed in hula skirts and tropical snacks for everyone to enjoy. Residents gathered around the big screen in the auditorium to watch the YouTube videos created by Room 217, which feature several Minden faces singing and describing their love of music and the program.
Joyce Hills, 91, and Allan Stokes, 82, sat side-by-side for the presentation, which included plenty of music.
“Anything with music is all right with me,” Hills smiled. “It makes you feel happy.”
Hills is featured prominently on the YouTube videos and is enlivened almost instantly by any music. While being interviewed, she regularly belts out the chorus of songs in between giving comments to the newspaper. Her father was a tenor soloist and she remembers being four years old and getting up on stage with him to sing.
Stokes used to be involved with his church choir and enjoys participating in the program each week.
“I enjoy it very much,” he says.
“Of course, music is the spice of life, isn’t it?” Hills leans over to say.
Besides improving memory, Pathways is supposed to encourage increased interaction and a sense of belonging. Hyland Crest resident Ethel Harris, 90, says it gives her a reason to get out of her room.
She seems to enjoy everything about the program, from the songs chosen to the woman who host the videos.
“The best one that I like is country and songs from the country,” she says. When she lived in Mississauga, Harris’s home was known as “the music house,” she says. She always had the radio on or a CD in the stereo.
As she chats with the newspaper, the video host sings Yellow Bird, with lyrics highlighted along the bottom of the screen.
“I like her. She is so nice,” Harris says of the host. The song is over and the host goes through a deep breathing exercise. “She breathes. It helps me to breathe. I didn’t know how to breathe. Like you breathe, but deep breathing is so good for you.”
The Pathways program includes videos, activity booklets, online training for activity aides, and bonus music tracks.