Ever get a song stuck in your head that you just can’t get out? That brain memory is exactly the tool that trained music therapists use to help people.
“Music is something we respond to in all cultures throughout history,” explained Melissa Cole, Music Therapist at Oakwood Village in Madison, WI. “All ages respond to music --there’s just something in us that is inherently musical but it’s also tied to our brain and biological processes.”
As a Music Therapist, Cole has trained to take that inherent connection in music and put it to use helping people. In one recent class MomsEveryday attended, you would have been surprised to learn that most of the women attending have advanced dementia rendering them non-verbal much of the time. But not when they’re with Melissa.
“Have you ever had a song that takes you back in time and you can remember specific details because of that song?” Melissa asks. “With dementia, in some cases someone who has lost the ability to speak most of the time can sing the old familiar songs from their youth word for word and they can sing the entire thing. It’s a great way for them to express themselves get their words out. And if their children are visiting, for example, they see their parents succeeding and can see a little bit of what their parent was able to do before -- and they can usher in some closeness.”
It helps these women deal with the frustration of not having words. Offering a moment of clarity.
“We’ve also seen where certain songs from their past, in age 16 to 20, will trigger autobiographical memories and parts of their past just come to the surface and it will sort of enliven them,” Cole said. “Almost every session I’ll see at least one person have a moment.”
That doesn’t come by accident. It happens when Melissa’s trained eye finds moments to connect and offer chances to reminisce about the old days.
Or watching for the chance to mimic behaviors in order to have a conversation through music.
“One person was playing the drum like this so I started playing like that,” Cole said. “For people who are nonverbal that’s a powerful way of meeting them where they’re at and being in the moment with them. Music has this wonderful ability to use movement and expressing yourself through music in that way. I think music has this way of breaking down walls and kind of opening the heart if you’re really engaged in it, and forming closer bonds with other people. And if I can facilitate one resident to another, forming a relationship more quickly, they can see each other to support each other during the whole week.”
Want to find a music therapist in your area? Learn more at https://www.musictherapy.org/