In the southeast corner of Washington State, amidst undulating hills of wheat fields on the Palouse, the City of Pullman, population 31,000, is bringing MUSIC & MEMORY® to a new level of holistic care.
Across the continuum, care professionals and volunteers are collaborating to enable individuals to benefit from personalized music. Whether an individual needs hospitalization, nursing home support, adult day care, hospice, or some combination, his or her music goes along.
This regional, integrated approach to personalized music, called MUSIC & MEMORY® on the Palouse, has gained traction due, in large part, to the efforts of volunteer dynamo Ginny Hauser.
“Music has always been my nearest and dearest love,” says Ginny, who has played the flute since the sixth grade and sings in a choir for people in hospice. “When patients are in a difficult situation, they no longer have access to what was once precious to them. Music & Memory brings back precious aspects of their lives through the joy of music.”
When Ginny retired from her counseling center work at Washington State University in 2013, she was looking for some meaningful volunteer opportunities. Her natural inclination to help others prompted her to train as a patient support volunteer at Pullman Regional Hospital. It was during that training that she learned of Music & Memory.
“Why Couldn’t It Happen Here?”
One evening, after the class had completed a unit on dementia, the group went to see a screening of Alive Inside that was co-sponsored by the hospital. “I thought, why couldn’t it happen here?” Ginny recalls. Inspired, she asked the hospital’s Volunteer Coordinator, Jessica Rivers, whether they could bring personalized music to the hospital. Jessica gave her an enthusiastic thumb’s up and promised to cover training costs through her volunteer program budget.
“Pullman Regional is a leader in progressive and innovative care,” says Jessica. The 25-bed facility, which includes three operating rooms and 24-hour emergency service, is a critical care access hospital serving the surrounding rural community. Patients with severe medical issues are flown to a trauma center 90 miles away. Jessica oversees more than 200 volunteers who provide a variety of services to guests and patients. Pet visits are part of the mix, as well as a harpist and dulcimer musician who will play for patients in their rooms when requested. Music & Memory has become one more tool for compassionate support.
After completing MUSIC & MEMORY® Certification training with Jessica and other hospital volunteers, Ginny began to build an iTunes Library for the hospital with donated CDs. She wrote a grant funded by the Pullman Regional Hospital Auxiliary to buy a laptop, iPods, iTunes credits and other supplies to implement the program. She began to create playlists for patients who were identified by clinicians as individuals who might benefit from the music—in particular, patients with high anxiety, uncontrolled pain, who were lonely or depressed, or who were in the hospital for extended stays.
Witnessing the Benefits, Hospital Staff Want to Be Involved
Nurses have reacted enthusiastically. “When they see the difference it makes in a patient, then they buy in,” says Ginny. She encouraged them to view Alive Inside on Netflix, to understand the value of personalized music for healing. Jessica says the program is gaining supporters throughout the hospital: “As we’ve been able to demonstrate the program’s usefulness, clinicians are inviting us to be involved.”
The hospital’s volunteer chaplains are also impressed, and Ginny has met with them to explain how the program works. Among the chaplains, Rod Schwartz has become an enthusiastic proponent of Music & Memory.
A few weeks ago, he says, he called Ginny about Lorraine, a stroke patient who was unable to communicate with anyone, including her husband, who was always by her side. With Ginny’s help and input from the husband about favorite music—Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, the Great American Playbook and more—they created a playlist and loaded it on an iPod.
“I put the headphones on and left her with her husband,” says Rod. “About an hour-and-a-half later, Lorraine was asking for her husband. The next day, the battery had run down. I asked if she’d like more music. She said, ‘If you don’t fix it, I’ll cry!’” He soon returned with a fully charged iPod loaded with her playlist, to her great pleasure.
Music Follows Patients from Hospital to Nursing Home . . .
When Lorraine was discharged to Avalon Care Center, the only nursing home in the area, she was able to continue benefiting from her music. Ginny serves there, as well, as a Patient Support Volunteer from Pullman Regional Hospital, so she could set up the same playlist for Lorraine on one of the hospital’s iPods that are shared with Avalon residents. “Her husband caught me several times in the hallway,” she says. “His wife was quietly humming along with the music. On my way out, he thanked me, a bit teary-eyed. He was so pleased that the music was making a difference for his loved one.”
In addition to her volunteer work at Pullman Regional and Avalon, Ginny has been instrumental in setting up Music & Memory at Circles of Caring, the local adult day health program, and Friends of Hospice, a home-based service for the county. “Ginny has really taken this on,” says Tarrin Weber, Avalon Care Center Administrator. “She coordinates with our Activities Director and comes weekly to monitor the program.”
Avalon’s average census is about two dozen residents. Tarrin says they have 10 iPods that are all in use most of the time. “Sometimes the iPods come with them from Pullman Regional, along with their playlist,” she says. The iPods are labeled by the hospital and returned as the patient transitions to Avalon. Then Ginny sets up a comparable playlist at the nursing home. “If they don’t come with an iPod, we create a personalized list if they are going to be here long term,” explains Tarrin.
“We had an individual who was pretty impulsive, lots of outbursts, showed a lot of frustration,” she continues. “This individual enjoys jazz. Because of the music, her outbursts have been almost completely eliminated. It’s made a significant difference in her quality of life and visits with family. They’re able to enjoy each other again.”
. . . to Adult Day Health Services
Hollie Mooney, Executive Director at Circles of Caring, echoes those sentiments. Ginny wrote another successful grant proposal, this time funded by the Pullman Rotary, to cover training and a dedicated laptop for the adult day health services center. Circles of Caring serves 30 participants, averaging about 18 people on any given day, who range in age from 29 to 99. Ten are currently using iPods with their personalized music
“We have one woman who will only listen to opera,” says Hollie. “She is legally blind, hard of hearing, doesn’t often participate in activities unless she has one-on-one attention. In the afternoons, she can become a bit agitated. We’ll put her music on as she sits in her recliner. She’ll close her eyes, move her head with the music and smile. When the music changes, she’ll say, ‘Oh, that was nice!’ It really calms her and helps us in a big way.”
Ginny recalls creating a playlist for one individual at Avalon for use during her nursing home stay, who was then released to go home under her husband’s care. Not long after, she saw the woman again, this time attending Circles of Caring during the day. “I was able to re-create her playlist and provide her with an iPod to use there,” she says. “This is another example of how we are able to follow our patients and continue to provide them with music support.”
Hospice Care is Next to Benefit
At Friends of Hospice, Director Annie Pillers says this regional hospice service is just getting started with Music & Memory. They, too, have iPods to bring to individuals in their homes. The program serves about 25 people on hospice or end-of-life care.
“We’ve done it twice, once we went through the training,” says Annie. “One woman with early onset Alzheimer’s was completely withdrawn from her surroundings, family and herself. We created a personalized playlist for her. Now when you visit, she’s sitting at the table, moving her feet. She’s engaged, calmer. The family finds it easier to be with her. It’s really been incredible.”
Area Students Help to Build MUSIC & MEMORY® on the Palouse
Ginny is enthusiastic about bringing Music & Memory to all four care settings. In a community where care professionals know and respect each other, creating a continuum of care with personalized playlists has become her mission. She also is drawing on local students to help with her efforts. Washington State University in Pullman and the University of Idaho in Moscow, just across the state line, are both potential resources. So far, Ginny has tapped Pullman High School, which requires students to complete a senior project.
This past summer, she worked with Pullman High senior Peter Schumaker to help her start Music & Memory at Circles of Caring, and also to help out at Avalon. “I built the music library at Circles of Caring, and Peter talked to each participant to find out their music favorites, built the lists and put the headphones on each one,” she says. “Working with the participants, Peter received such joy delivering the music. It touched his heart.”
How to Scale the Pullman Effect
Is the Pullman Effect possible for larger cities? There are several keys to making that happen:
“A leader who gets it, who’s focused on all the different ways a hospital can provide exceptional care and attract similar people to fill those roles, is essential to success,” says Rod Schwartz, Pullman Regional volunteer chaplain.
Friends of Hospice’s Annie Pillers suggests that it’s also a matter of coordination that could start at the hospital level, which already has an interdisciplinary team that plans for continuing care, post-hospitalization. “The framework is already in place. You just add this part to it,” she says.
Hollie Mooney at Circles of Caring envisions a neighborhood-based network of a hospital, assisted living facility, adult day health, nursing home and hospice, working together on a smaller scale within a larger urban area.
And both Hollie and Avalon’s Tarrin Weber emphasize the importance of a champion like Ginny Hauser, who will take ownership of the program, help with training and follow up to maintain the program.
Says Tarrin, “Without Ginny, we wouldn’t have had Music & Memory.”
Founded in 2010, MUSIC & MEMORY® is a non-profit organization that brings personalized music into the lives of the elderly or infirm through digital music technology, vastly improving quality of life.