Nanaimo News Bulletin – Therapy a marriage of music, medicine

By Rachel Stern – Nanaimo News Bulletin

Published: August 13, 2010

Music is said to soothe the savage beast, but it can also soothe the soul of a senior living with dementia.

At Nanaimo Travellers Lodge, music therapists are bringing calmness, happiness and health care through music to residents.

Maryann Burrows, music therapist for the lodge, said music therapy is different than bringing in musicians to play. It is a marriage between music and medicine. It is meant to restore, maintain and improve the emotional, physical and physiological health of the client.

“Music accesses several parts of the brain, while language uses just one, so it literally opens the doors of communications for these folks,” said Burrows. “We have some clients that are nonverbal as result of dementia and music is a way for these folks to have a means of communication that isn’t about words.”

Burrows said music therapists use music in a purposeful way, assess the person and create a treatment plan. Many of the residents get agitated in the afternoon and music is a way to reduce the agitation.

Burrows works with one such resident once a week to help reduce his agitation. The resident plays the violin and Burrows is helping him make a CD of his music to share with his family and for himself.

“It gives him a sense of accomplishment, builds self esteem and gives him a positive experience,” she said.

Nanaimo Travellers Lodge is a dementia care facility. The lodge has adopted the Eden philosophy, which focuses on stepping away from the institutional feel of a building and turning it into a home and community. The philosophy centres around providing an environment that enriches the lives of elders on a daily basis.

This summer Burrows is getting a helping hand from Katherine Lowings, a student from Acadia University in Wolfville, N.S. Lowings received the Westin Music Therapy Practicum Award from her university, giving her the choice to do a practicum anywhere in the country, and she chose to work with Burrows at Travellers.

Lowings is taking on her own clients to gain valuable experience. She said it’s great to know Burrows trusts her on that level and to get that kind of responsibility.

“In school you are so closely watched you want to get your own wings,” she said.

Lowings completes her practicum at the end of August and returns to her final year of music therapy studies. Meanwhile she’s learning the ropes about how to use music out of the classroom.

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