Improving the Quality of Life for Residents in Aged Care

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Many approaches are being tried in aged care facilities to improve the quality of life for residents. As a Placement Consultant I like to know that my clients will enjoy a contented and engaging life once they move into an aged care home, that not only will their physical needs be taken care of but their emotional, spiritual and intellectual needs too. Some fine examples of programs that help provide a good quality of life are discussed below:

Music therapist Heather Seyhun at ACH West Park Adelaide, brought in her own collection of drums from Africa and Brazil to begin a music trial she devised. Three months on, she says she’s amazed at how the group has evolved and the positive changes she has witnessed.

“When we started out, people were a bit unsure, because most had never hit a drum before, and felt outside their comfort zone,” she says. “Now they’re loving it, and they’re getting really good.”

Heather has seen improvements in wellbeing, socialisation, self-confidence and mobility. “You can see the enjoyment, the new friendships – playing music with others creates a special bond.” she says “Watching people with physical limitation participating, growing in confidence and supporting each other is so rewarding.”

A Zen Garden has been created at St. Patrick’s Green, Kogarah, NSW, based on the philosophy that a bit of nature is good for the soul and will allow residents to relax and meditate, among the sounds of a water feature and rustling palms.

Other wellbeing rooms are the Spa Room and Reflection Room. Residents can enjoy a soothing massage experience, complete with lavender essential oils, calming music, facials and other beauty treatments for a complete pamper experience.

The Reflection Room provides a tranquil space for residents to reflect on life, away from the bustle of communal areas. It also acts as a private space for residents to meet with the manager of Spiritual and Holistic Care if anything is troubling them.

Some therapies that research have found to be effective are:

Animals and pet therapy;Aromatherapy; Art therapy and craft; Behavioural activation and pleasant events; Bright light therapy; Cognitive behaviour therapy; Cognitive and memory skills interventions; Companion robot; Dance and movement;Dementia care mapping; Humour therapy; Laughter yoga; Life review; Life review therapy; Massage; Music and singing; Person-centred care; Restorative approaches; Simple reminiscence;Yoga.

More indepth information is available in the studyWhat works to promote emotional wellbeing in older people: A guide for aged care staff working in community or residential care settings. Melbourne: beyondblue by Wells, Y., Bhar, S., Kinsella, G., Kowalski, C., Merkes, M., Patchett, A., Salzmann, B., Teshuva, K., & van Holsteyn, J. (2014).

 

 

 

 

 

Exploring The Effect Of Music on Creative Ageing

 

Music as therapy in aged care will be examined for the effect it has on creativity and resilience in ageing by Professor Andrea Creech, a professor in music education at the Université Laval in Canada, at the International Arts and Health Conference in Sydney from 30 October to 1st November. Held at the Art Gallery of NSW in Sydney, the overarching theme of the conference is “Mental Health and Resilience through the Arts”.

Andrea makes the point that society recognises the human need to be cared for and to belong, but often forgets how important it is for people to make a contribution, to feel valued and to be creative. “Music builds resilience, is cognitively engaging and is associated with lasting effects on brain plasticity, as well as with non-musical brain functions, such as language and attention.” she said “but perhaps the most important point is that making music is both social and communicative and is strongly related to sustaining a sense of who we are.”

Music has been used for people with dementia to great effect, as it has been found that music triggers an emotional response, tied to a memory.  Emotions and memory work side by side, so when music from a particular era is played it will often trigger memories of the person’s past that they have long forgotten.

Pete McDonald, who works full-time as a registered music therapist at Hammond Care and other aged care services in NSW, always finishes his workshop series with a public concert to which the family and friends of the participants are invited. He ensures participants are involved physically in music making, playing instruments and singing. He told Australian Ageing Agenda “Not only do we see the benefits in the social and cognitive realms, but also physical health benefits such as improved lung capacity.”

I find it heartening to hear that Professor Creech believes “It is entirely possible, given the opportunity and support, to be creative at any age”, but she then questions whether enough opportunities are provided for this. As an Aged Care Placement Consultant I regularly inspect aged care facilities and I always look for positive activities such as music workshops for my clients. It is clear that creative therapies, such as music, are positive on many levels and society’s attitude to older people need to change to allow this expression. One way is through intergenerational activity, and music is a great vehicle.