This blog entry is submitted by Lynda Weston, MDiv, Spiritual Care Coordinator at Spruce Lodge Long Term Care Facility in Stratford, Ontario. Lynda attended Room 217’s Music Care Conference in 2010 and began to integrate music into her regular care practice at Spruce Lodge.
It is hard to put into words my first experience of the Music Care Conference I attended at Wilfrid Laurier in October of 2010. It was partly a sense of ‘coming home’ and partly a great big ‘Yes!’ Finally I found folks who affirmed everything I had been seeing and experiencing as the spiritual care coordinator at Spruce Lodge Long Term Care Facility in Stratford. Somewhere along my journey I heard someone say that the word for ‘music’ and the word for ‘to dream’ had their origins in the same Celtic word. This always made perfect sense to me. I had watched music, live and recorded, weave a comforting web of dreamtime around family members sitting with their dying relative. I had been present, dancing someone around in a wheelchair to the music of their youth, when we slipped into magical dreaming time and they turned to me and said, “This is just like flying.” Music has the power to enfold, unfurl, lift and transport bodies - sick, old, crippled, dying - out of the ‘reality’ of a mundane, overly-medicalized existence and into the dream world of freedom, emotion and joy. Following the Music Care Conference, I began to look with new eyes on what we might do to support the use of music beyond the boundaries of traditional use with more confidence. Here are three music care projects I would like to share. I was approached by a storyteller, who offered to come in and share her stories about the pioneer days in Huron and Perth counties with our residents, many of whom were the same age or older than this lively woman. I paired her with another volunteer who played piano and organ for our chapel services. Dorothy Leitch’s wonderful stories, and storytelling, were punctuated by Marion MacDougald’s accompaniment of songs of the period. The nostalgic and rollicking time ended with everybody singing along.
- During the death of one of our residents, I spent a lot of time with her daughter who is married to pianist/organist, Angus Sinclair. Much of our conversations revolved around music and the effects it can have. Consequently, Angus recorded and donated a CD he recorded specifically to be used in palliative care. We are now selling, ‘Circle of Return’ to raise money for music therapy and music programs at the facility.
- As part of mandatory training for the staff I wanted to find a way to show a series of self-portraits painted by an artist who continued to paint as his Alzheimer’s disease progressed. They are moving pictures but also hard to look at. Wanting to create an atmosphere in which the portraits could be seen, not just looked at, I asked another volunteer pianist/composer, Michel Allard, if he would be interested in writing an original music score to help hold the attention of viewers when their instinct might be to look away. The result was an eleven minute film which has resulted in changes to the way we do care with dementia residents.
Although all the services and funding which might be available in some of the larger centres are simply not available to us, we have found a way to start blooming where we are planted. And what beautiful flowers have been produced so far.