A chain reaction—that’s how one person’s joy, listening to musical favorites, can spread to people nearby. For those in the front lines of nursing home care, that positive energy can be transformative.
“When a resident puts those headphones on, there’s life,” says Olivia Emiko Thompson, a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) at MorseLife Health System in West Palm Beach, Florida. “They see you, they smile. The ones who can’t do ADLs (activities of daily living) for themselves are up and dancing.
“It’s a hard job in a long-term care residence,” she continues. “You’re amazed by the effects on residents. They’re happy and have a better quality of life. I’m inspired because it reminds me of why I do what I do.”
CNAs Play a Key Role in Making MUSIC & MEMORY® a Success
Close daily contact with residents place CNAs at the heart of a team effort to create a successful Music & Memory program. Not only do they witness the immediate benefits of personalized music, but also can play a key role in helping to identify which songs have the most positive impact. In addition, CNAs can observe and report when a resident would most benefit from listening to musical favorites—to help ease transitions, for example, or make dressing or bathing a more soothing activity.
MorseLife has been offering Music & Memory to residents for nearly three years. Emiko Thompson says she sees the positive effects throughout the day. A silent, isolated woman sings and kisses her husband and converses when they share her musical favorites. A 100-plus-year-old woman, whose daughter was heartbroken to have made the decision to place her in a nursing home, claps and hugs when she hears her beloved Yiddish music. “You should have seen the look on her daughter’s face,” says Emiko Thompson. “It not only helps the resident. It also helps the family and helps me and other team members. It gives you hope.”
Personalized Playlists Improve Lives of Residents and Their CNAs
Robert Holway, Therapeutic Recreation Coordinator at MorseLife, agrees that personalized playlists improve the lives of both residents and the CNAs who care for them. “It’s a cascading effect,” he says. “Everything for the CNAs goes better. The residents are happier, easier to work with. It’s a more friendly, welcoming environment. The CNAs will engage with the residents in a different way. A resident may be enjoying the music and doing a little chair dance. The CNA will join in and engage with them. Sometimes you’ll get a whole roomful of people joining in and sharing the excitement. It’s a beautiful thing to see.”
A personalized playlist can also be a magnet for community. A resident with ALS, who couldn’t use her extremities and was confined to her bed and wheelchair, became the center of attention when Holway set her up with a playlist and an Amazon Echo that enabled her to use voice commands to listen to her favorite music and other media.
“I follow up and she says all the CNAs seem to be attracted to her room. They hang out, have a little piece of candy, enjoy the ambiance,” he says. “It’s like having a bouquet of flowers, a positive aroma. She knows the different CNAs and the music they like. They have a party in there.”
MUSIC & MEMORY® Inspires Other Ways to Enhance the Nursing Home Environment
Holway has used the Music & Memory personalized playlist program as a jumping off point for other creative ways to enhance the environment with preferred music. He’s designed playlists for all the dining areas based on surveying residents about what they would like to hear. “They’ve designed their own playlists,” he says. “Breakfast music is more upbeat, lunch has more easy listening, and dinner is mellower, with calming, classical music.”
In addition, he has created custom playlists for activities staff, religious services and common areas. The results are tangible: residents are more engaged, staff more productive and families appreciative about the positive atmosphere.
“From my perspective, Music & Memory has provided the seed. From there, who knows what can happen. It’s limitless,” says Holway. “The beautiful thing about Music & Memory is the engagement. The music is the tool. It begins with a conversation: What’s your favorite music? That opens up the reminiscences, and from there it flows. It’s almost like we have to get out of the way and let it organize us and see how it unfolds.”
Founded in 2010, MUSIC & MEMORY® is a non-profit organization that brings personalized music into the lives of people with cognitive or physical conditions through digital music technology, vastly improving quality of life.