Tips for Group Facilitators

How to use a song

Five Ways to Enhance the Use of a Song

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There is a difference between the use of songs or music as a diversion, and the use of music for therapeutic reasons. Music is multidimensional in nature, meaning it connects with our emotional, social, intellectual, physical and spiritual being. Because of this, it can reach those who are struggling with cognitive deterioration, a decreasing ability to communicate, pain or illness.

You don’t have to be a professional musician to use songs or music in your daily work routine, to relax, to calm, find healing, or energize. There is much research that shows how powerful and healing music really is to reduce agitation and pain, help with grief, and improve quality of life.

It is therapeutic to simply listen to a song. But here are 5 ways that you can enhance it:

1.        Talk about the Lyrics and/or the Melody

Sometimes there is a phrase in the lyrics that stands out for them or you. Talk about it. Here are two questions you can pose—try to answer both parts. Focus on the emotions as this is often what is remembered most. If they are able to answer, that is best. If not, then you can share your experience of the song with them.

Listening to that song, I feel _________________, because ___________________.

Listening to that song reminds me to ______________, because ________________.

2.      Use Touch and Movement

If you know the resident well, then consider the use of touch and movement.

a. Simply holding their hand or linking your arm with theirs while the song is playing.

b. Holding their hand(s) and swaying gently to the rhythm of the song.

c. And, of course, dancing, for those that love to dance.

3.      Play a Rhythmic Instrument with Them

This can great increase the benefits as they are actually participate in the music. Those that are not able to on their own, can play simple rhythmic instruments with assistance. Try the following:

a. Place a rhythm stick in one of their hands and then gently tap it with another stick in time to the music. They will feel the rhythm.

b. You can do the same with a tambourine. Place their hand on it and you gently play the tambourine in time. Take care to start slowly so that it doesn’t startle them.

4.      Reduce Agitation – Slow it Down, Waaaay Down

This is a simple technique that is almost always effective in reducing agitation. Musical talent is not required. Keep it in a low key that is comfortable for you. Choose a song that you know well, one that they might like, and sing a verse once through, without the recording (a capella). Then sing it again and slow it down, little by little by little. Try it. It is so effective it should be made into a pill.

5.      Use a Song Basket to Offer Choice

Many residents have a hard time thinking of a song they would like to hear, or are no longer able to access the memory. If you put titles of songs in large print into a simple woven basket they can then choose one of the songs in it. If they pick a song out and don’t appear to like it, let them choose again. Happy singing!

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