If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably already well acquainted with how awesome music can be. Maybe you’re a music therapist, or know and love one. You might be an activity director who has seen your residents sing along to Frank Sinatra long after they’re lost their ability to speak. Or maybe you know the feeling of getting in the car after a long day and hearing your favorite song come on the radio. No matter what, nearly everyone has some kind of connection with music. That’s why I want to share this next story with you. If you love music, you’ll understand.
It’s Monday after a weekend of pouring rain. The sun is trying to peek through the clouds. I get called in for an impromptu music therapy session at a day program for adults with mental health needs. I and another music therapist normally have a group here on Tuesday and Thursdays but they requested an extra session this week and I’m glad to step in. When I walk in the door I see a woman beelining towards the exit, staff not far behind. Exit-seeking behavior is a common symptom in dementia, and the staff at this day program are well-versed in redirection, but nothing seems to be working. I make eye contact with the director and she says, “Do you want to go to music?” The woman looks at the director, looks at me, and says, “I don’t think I can.” I approach the woman with my hand extended and introduce myself. She takes my hand and tells me her name. Then I ask, “Do you like rock & roll?” The woman’s eyes light up. Like the sun peeking through the clouds, her affect begins to brighten. She starts humming and moving her shoulders up and down in time, and enthusiastically agrees to walk to my group with me. We hum “The Twist” by Chubby Checker as we go.