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Music—Magical Medicine

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There are tapes and CD’s available today that can help achieve various desirable moods, soothing the agitated (including the caregiver), relaxing tension, awakening those in a stupor. These can be helpful at stressful mealtimes, for example, when an older family member is distraught, turning a nightmare of frustration into a more pleasant, manageable interlude for everyone. Drumming seems to have an especially positive effect, perhaps because the predictable, steady rhythm is comforting and provides structure. 

Playing a piano and gently inducing your care recipient to join in, is another way to open lines of communication. It can almost become a form of conversation, with the individual playing one part while the caregiver repeats or varies the same notes. It can improve life for both the patient and the family member, and it is not necessary to have played an instrument to be able to find relief in using music to lessen feelings of isolation and loss. Music impacts on the family’s well being, making an appreciable difference, creating awareness and limiting withdrawal. When memory loss is a problem, as it is with so many older people, music can help anchor them to reality. It can even improve sleep patterns. Music a bit slower than the normal heartbeat can result in sounder sleep, and some older adults were able to stop taking insomniac medications when it was tried.

Somehow, music can activate otherwise unreachable areas, digging deep into the subconscious to release memories and experiences long forgotten. Apparently speech and singing are processed differently in the brain so that stroke victims can sometimes be helped to regain the ability to speak by singing tunes with the caregiver’s assistance. 

Development of this challenging method of dealing with the problems, physical and mental, of aging parents and grandparents, depends upon trust, respect, feedback and support from the caregivers to the recipients. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this simple approach could lead to a better quality of life for our dependent loved ones?

So here’s to a sound mind, a sound body and the sound of music dispensing health through harmony. 

Sherman/Starkman

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