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Music therapy tackles isolation for care home residents



Specialist residential care home provider Voyage Care, working with arts therapy experts Chroma, have taken a unique approach to tackling isolation amongst residents by delivering music therapy sessions.

Voyage Care’s supported living apartments in Lorenzo Drive, Liverpool, offers occupants all the benefit of independent living with the security of having our specialist support close by. Most occupants have complex social backgrounds alongside a brain injury, making socialising a difficult task and isolation common. 

Wendy de St Paer, a Neurologic Music Therapist at Chroma, says: “Care homes residents can suffer isolation as a result of factors such as mobility, communication impairment or issues surrounding visitation, but the group music therapy sessions have proven to be popular for participants. 

“The sessions can help improve interaction between residents, as well as addressing issues around awareness and attention. Group members are given the space and opportunity to increase self-awareness around how they interact with others in the group and how this may also impact their day to day activities and interaction outside the group.”

Before COVID-19, face-to-face group sessions involved playing musical instruments together, singing and improvisation, which offers alternative tools for self- expression, especially for those whose communication abilities are limited. Mindfulness activities also helped manage agitation or anxiety.

With the onset of the pandemic, sessions were adapted and moved online but the sessions still proved beneficial. Attention-based activities were introduced whereby residents would ‘pass a sound around’ person to person online. Depending on how residents were functioning, new rules were introduced to increase difficulty.

Wendy added: “Going online did limit our sessions, for example, time delays or buffering hindered live music playing and improvisation, but this process was greatly helped by Lorenzo Drive’s therapies co-ordinator Leslie Moore, who facilitated and organised the group.

“During face-to-face sessions, residents particularly enjoyed using coloured handbells to re-create a tune by playing when I gestured towards them. As this was no longer possible online, I shared a form of simple notation that was accessible to all via PowerPoint presentations. In this way we were able to keep recreating the songs that residents had enjoyed so much”

Louise Houghton, ABI placements manager at Voyage Care, added: “These online sessions gave staff at Lorenzo Drive an insight into what residents could achieve if they were left to perform these activities on their own. More often than not, residents succeeded, which only served to boost their self-confidence and improve their motivation towards life itself.

“Throughout the 18 months that this group ran, it was important that the group found musical common ground for the sessions to be effective. Being in the heart of Liverpool, The Beatles were a great way to bring coherence to the group.

“Whether face-to-face or online, music therapy sessions offered a way for residents to improve their concentration and attention span, become more aware of others, develop trust and positive relationships and increase self-expression, confidence and communication.

“Overall, group work helps to encourage bonding which is necessary for tackling loneliness. Participants attended regularly which demonstrates the positive attributes these sessions held for the residents and in effect, helped them live together more harmoniously.”

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