Creating A Designated Music Room in a LTC: Stories from Music Care Training Grads

by Deb Bartlett

What happens when three women take Music Care Training? They become inspired, and work to create a beautiful space for residents, their families and staff, and call it Room 217, to honour the Foundation that taught them about music care.
That’s what happened at the Salvation Army Eventide Home. Major Renee Clarke is the director of spiritual care of the Niagara Falls long-term care home. She had wanted to take music care training when she was working in Hamilton, but never got around to it. When she was transferred to Eventide, she met recreation manager Aurika Bennett and recreation therapist Wendy Kidd.
Individually, they knew that the use of music had potential. What they didn’t know was just how big impact their passion and training would have.
In their day-to-day work with residents, Aurika and Wendy had playlists, were using music in palliative care, and in group settings. But Aurika says they wanted to start using music not as programming, but as a means of connecting with people who may be isolated, and missing out on the group activities.
In Room 217 Foundation’s Music Care Training, she learned about the use of music personally, and with intentionality.
They made great gains working 1:1 with residents, but felt they needed a special space. So part of Major Clarke’s office became Room 217 – a cozy, quiet, homey space in which staff and residents, residents and family or staff can go to listen to music and reflect, enjoy, grieve or celebrate.
She says coming up with the idea for the special room, and the care that would take place in it, was a team building exercise for the three of them.
The trio now hope that the results they’re seeing with residents who are being cared for individually with music will be apparent to other staff members. “They need to see how impactful this is,” says Major Clarke. She wants Eventide to become a model home for music care. “Music care has so much potential,” she says. “I want people to see and learn from us.”
She says recreation programming targets residents’ social and physical needs; music care has a deeper meaning. “It’s a very holistic and personal program,” says Major Clarke.
Wendy says she makes the time she spends with each resident quality time. She makes steady eye contact, might give them a hand massage, while they enjoy music together.
“We can raise the bar for what recreation programming is,” says Aurika. She says the music care at Eventide is improving the quality of recreation programming at the home.
Part of music care at Eventide includes journaling with residents about the songs that matter to them. It will help tell the story of that resident. The journal will follow the resident to palliative care, and will then be handed to the family. Aurika says this means music care will have come full circle. It will be closing up in a good place, she says, using Room 217 music in the palliative care room.
The three took Level 1 training together and knew that what they learned was going to lead to amazing things at Eventide.
Unlike most professional training, Major Clarke says Music Care Training through Room 217 Foundation “did not sit on the shelf. It moved forward in a big way.”
Eventide’s Room 217 was to be tested in October, and will open for programming in November. When it’s not being used for the half-hour 1:1 sessions, the room is available as a staff retreat room, or for spouses to spend some quiet time together.

Deb Bartlett is the resource lead for Room 217 Foundation. By profession, she is a journalist who has worked in community newspapers in the GTA for 30 years. If you have a story to share about how music has affected your caregiving, email [email protected].