How A Long-Term Care Facility Brings Music to Residents

Tapping your toes. Rocking your body. Humming or even singing along to the tune.

They’re all common reactions to hearing a familiar song.

Those are the signs staff at Welland long-term care facilities are hoping to see in dementia patients following a recent donation of 55 iPods and headphone sets.

The $4,000 donation, a joint initiative between the Rose City Seniors Centre Foundation board and senior citizens advisory committee, will be split between Rapelje Lodge, Woodlands of Sunset, Foyer Richelieu and the extended care unit at Welland hospital.

Studies have shown that music, familiar music in particular, can have a significant impact on patients with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, said committee member Carol Sernasie.

After seeing much research on the topic, the foundation board and advisory committee teamed up to assist the local care homes in getting the listening devices through their doors.

Most dementia patients have difficulty communicating, said Dave Stortz, resident and community programs manager at Rapelje Lodge. Music, he said, offers staff, as well as families, another avenue to stimulate and engage residents.

“You might ask them what they want for breakfast and there’s no response,” Stortz said.

“But put on something familiar and they start tapping their toes. They might even sing along.”

Familiarity is key, he said, which is why the families of residents play such an important role in the initiative.

Once staff determine who may best benefit from having the iPods, they will work with the corresponding families to create a unique music library, filled with sounds of the past, for each resident.

“It has to be personal,” Stortz said.

Denise Bourque, resident and community programs manager at Woodlands of Sunset, was most excited to give an iPod to one resident who used to be an avid guitar player.

“He loves Johnny Cash and The Beatles,” she said, adding she’s hopeful the music will make him feel as though he has an instrument in his hands once again.

As there are not enough iPods to service all residents in need within the homes, donations are always being accepted.

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