Caregiving Monday: 10 Ways to Use music to calm and minister

I’ve had some residents that would yell, become agitated, or have hallucinations. I’ve discovered I can use music to calm and minister to these residents.

  1. Using songs that are familiar helps the loved one feel comfortable because the song is familiar

    Music is theraputic
    Music is theraputic
  2. Singing hymns is often soothing
  3. Music that is calming or played softly often helps to deal with agitation. I’ve often found that piano music is great for calming the loved one, whether in person or through a CD.
  4. Nature sounds are a great way to calm agitation
  5. Hymns ministers to the soul
  6. Familiar songs can illicit happy memories
  7. Singing is often the equivalent to “praying twice”
  8. Music often speaks to the soul and can be used to help the loved one express themselves
  9. Use songs that help redirect the loved one into other thoughts or memories. For instance, ask “Did Dad sing let me call you sweetheart to you when you were courting?” or “did you see Wizard of Oz as a child?”  or “did you see {name artists} in concert?”
  10. Use movement to music to help the loved one stay active. This can be done in a variety of ways from playing a small handheld instrument to dancing to hitting a ball/balloon to moving with scarves to the music.

How do you use music to calm and minister?

Caregiving Monday: The Power of Music

Time and time again I’m amazed at the power of music.   I’ve shared many times how I believe this is the universal language and that still rings true.

So why do I believe this?

music soothes
music soothes

Well, let’s visit the Alzheimer’s unit and take a look:

Resident #1 has terrible flashbacks from a traumatic event as a child.  Talking only agitates her more in these moments.  However, as soon as I begin to sing she calms down.  Before the end of the song she is singing a-long.  After we finish the sing a-long, she sits quietly and is able to carry on a conversation.

Resident #2 is depressed.  As soon as I begin to sing, I see her eyes light up.  By the time we finish singing, she is clapping her hands and singing along.

Resident #3 ask me to sing or motions towards the piano every time I walk into the room.  Piano music and sing a-longs calms his agitation.

Resident #4 cannot speak, however every time I sing a certain song she has tears in her eyes.  Once again I’m reminded how this song touches her heart.

Resident #5 repeats the same phrases from a hymn over and over every time you speak with him.  That’s okay, because this song has struck a chord with him and we will continue to sing the song with each sing a-long.

Resident #6 does not speak, but when we begin to sing “You are My Sunshine” or “Jesus Loves Me” she can sing every word.

There are numerous ways to enjoy music. Dancing is one such way.
There are numerous ways to enjoy music. Dancing is one such way.

Resident #7 easily grows confused and frustrated in trying to recall the information she is seeking.  However, when we begin to sing she can sing the words to every hymn and oldies song.  Her husband is so amazed he ask her to sing every time he visits.

Resident #8 doesn’t enjoy singing, but brightens up when we use the hand bells and wants to play the bells.

Resident #9 also isn’t a singer, but enjoys moving to music when we toss a balloon, move with scarves or dance to music.   She is proof, that there are other ways to implement music other than just through singing and playing.

Resident #10 is easily agitated and does not enjoy a lot of music.  She will call out and disrupt her peers.  However, putting on a CD of soothing music calms her down and she quickly quietens down.

In what ways have you used the power of music to help someone that has dementia?


Caregiving Monday: Dealing with Trauma

The love of family can make a difference
The love of family can make a difference



Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease and there are times when traumatic moments and horrific memories return to traumatize the patient.

So what are some ways to calm the patient?

Music has a healing power
Music has a healing power


  1. Redirect the patient and see if you can get their mind on something else
  2. Allow the patient to speak about the incident—some need to express their feelings and what was experienced in a safe and loving environment. Never judge or push for information, but allow the patient to share what s/he is comfortable with.
  3. Music—sing a song or hymn that is comforting to the patient. If you can’t sing, put on some soothing music, whether it is a collection of hymns or instrumental {especially piano} music.
  4. Pray—if the patient is a praying person, ask them to pray or if you can pray with them. I have seen amazing changes happen with prayer in a person with Alzheimer’s.

    Prayer changes things
    Prayer changes things
  5. Love—sometimes the patient just needs to feel loved and safe
  6. Touch—the power of touch is powerful. Often a hand on the shoulder or a pat of the hand does amazing wonders in soothing a patient that is troubled.  This is a comforting act to him/her.
  7. Family—sometimes seeing a familiar face is all that is needed. I have seen Alzheimer’s patient’s entire demeanor change when they are able to see a spouse, child or grandchild.  This brings comfort and assures the patient that s/he is not alone and not forgotten.

What has worked for you in dealing with traumatic situations in an Alzheimer’s patient?

Caregiving Monday: The Power of Jesus Loves Me

Jesus Loves

Last week, I shared the power of music over Alzheimer’s.

When I began performing years ago, I made the decision to end every performance or musical session with Jesus Loves Me.

I have discovered this is a song everyone knows.  I have even had Alzheimer patients that did not claim to be a Christian, but was still able to sing every word to Jesus Loves Me.Jesus Loves Me

Everyone knows the words to Jesus Loves Me.  This is one of the first songs children learn.  Even in their twilight years, they still remember this song.

I have seen patients whom were bed bound and unable to speak, but as I began to sing Jesus Loves Me, the patient began to sing along.

This often surprises family, but I’ve seen this transformation on numerous occasions, and recognize not only the power of music but the power of God and His love.

If anyone needs to be reminded of this simple promise, it is these patients that are lost behind the prison of Alzheimer’s, and their families.

In what ways have you seen Jesus Love Me break through the barriers of Alzheimer’s?


Caregiving Monday: The Power of Music on Alzheimers

I’ve always believe music is the universal language.  Music can reach through time and cultural barriers to unite the listener.Music

Time and again I have worked with Alzheimer patients that are completely lost to the disease.  Often the patient is unable to speak or move and has to have everything done for him/her.

However, I begin to play or sing a hymn or old song and I began to see a spark that wasn’t there before.

On many occasions these women and men, many who rarely speak, began to sing the words to the song or hymn being performed.

That song is reaching through the barrier of time to a memory deeply buried otherwise.

Music has the power to break through the barriers of Alzheimer’s and minister in ways we may not be able to.

In what ways have you seen music break through the barriers of Alzheimer’s?

Caregiving Monday: 10 Activities with Music for Senior Adults

Do you wish you could find activities with music for your loved one?

When I go into nursing homes we often do various activities with music.  Many of these you can also do at home.

Balloons and balls are a great way to encourage movement
Balloons and balls are a great way to encourage movement

Here are a few ideas:

  1. Toss a balloon { or beach ball} back and forth during a song
  2. Purchase a set of rhythm sticks and keep the beat {could also clap hands}
  3. Use Scarves and make different movements to the music
  4. Egg Shakers—shake to the beat of the music  {or make your own using rice and beans}
  5. Assortment of Instruments—play different instruments during a song.  You could also use different containers and pots and pans for various tones.
  6. Dance—if your loved one cannot physically get up and dance, hold hands and slightly sway to the music {this is always a huge hit}
  7. Sing Simple Songs—remind your parents of when they taught you or your children songs.  Many love songs such as The Wheels on the Bus, Three Blind Mice, Incy Wincy Spider, etc.  You can also use the movements.
  8. Make Up Your Own Song—find a subject and make up a song about it, even if it is a song about items you see in the room

    Scarves is another great idea that has a number of uses
  9. Sing A Long—sing along to some of your loved ones favorite songs, whether it is hymns, Jazz, or oldies.  Sometimes I even use visual prompts for shorter songs where there is a picture for each word.
  10. Sing To Patient—sometimes just singing to your loved one or putting on a calming CD is the best medicine.  If your loved one easily becomes agitated, this might be a great way to calm the patient down.
  11. Bonus Item: Name that Tune—use familiar tunes and ask to name that tune.  It’s amazing what memories certain songs may prompt.


Join the Conversation:  What other activities can you think of with music?

Caregiving Monday–Musical Ear Syndrome

music in earAfter GG* broke her neck four years ago, she began complaining about noises that were not there.   Often she hears people talking, songs that are not being played, etc.

A visit to the doctor and some research showed that she has a condition called musical ear syndrome.  This is most common in individuals with severe hearing loss.  After breaking her neck, GG developed severe hearing loss.

GG often tells us that we think she is crazy, but we actually believe her.  We understand what she’s dealing with but have a difficult time making her understand what she’s hearing.MES

Musical ear syndrome is classified as phantom sounds in the ear and brain that are considered “auditory hallucinations.”  More women than men are willing to admit that they suffer from musical ear syndrome.

Some enjoy the sounds or music they hear and others wish they would go away.

GG will sit in her chair and carry on a full conversation with these voices that are talking to them.  I’ve watched GG carry on a 20-30 min conversation with these individuals.  However, this is typical for individuals that struggle with musical ear syndrome {MES}.

Even though GG wears hearing aids and they help to an extent, they are not a catch all.

Do you know of anyone that struggles with MES?

*Name altered

12 Ways Not to Lose Hope

Are you going through a transition?  Does life seem uncertain?  Are you unsure of what the future holds?

Whether you are battling a disease, working through a divorce, searching for a new job or dealing with other life struggles in this chapter of your life, don’t give up hope.

Here are 12 ways to keep hope alive:

  1. Read your Bible—this is the best place to start.  There are plenty examples of individuals that have struggled and been blessed by God.    read Bible
  2. Keep a hope journal—write in your journal every day, sharing your heart and feelings.  This is a journal just between you and God.
  3. List of gratitude’s—make a list of things to be thankful for each morning.  I like to list at least three things, but you can list any number you want.
  4. Art journaling—this is simply drawing your feelings and heart.
  5. Uplifting Music—listen to music that lifts your spirit.  While you listen you can sing along or even dance to it.
  6. Inspirational Movies—find an inspirational movie that relates to your circumstances or just lifts your spirit and makes you feel good.
  7. Place your name in the Bible Verse—when you read a verse put your name in that verse.  For example: “cast not your movie realburdens upon the Lord.”  I would say, “Leagh, cast not your burdens upon the Lord.”
  8. Cast Your Cares Away—write your burden out and then burn it.  As the ashes burn, lift that burden and prayer up to God and allow Him to lift it from your shoulders.
  9. Say Goodbye to the past—if your house burned down go back to that site and say goodbye.  If you hurt someone, meet with them and apologize.  If it is impossible to meet in person then write that person a letter.  Even if you never send it, you’ve released those feelings and said goodbye.
  10. Speak with someone else that has overcome that situation—find someone else that has overcome the same situation and share your stories with one another.  Just knowing that someone else has been there and understand helps.   help homeless
  11. Help the less fortunate—often doing something for someone else is the best medicine.  You get your mind off of yourself and onto others.  Doing this provides you with a new perspective of how much worse your own situation could be.
  12. Life Coaching—this is a great tool that will allow you to set goals and keep you accountable as you move forward.

How do you keep hope alive?  What struggles have you overcome?


hope quote