Bringing Families Together Through Music
Posted 2/18/2016 by UHBlog
She hasn’t spoken in months but can still sit down at a piano and play her favorite hymn. He doesn’t remember most of the people in his life but he responds to the song they played at his wedding.
If someone in your family can no longer speak because of dementia or another impairment, it’s time to get creative. A music therapist can provide the tools to help your family communicate again.
According to music therapist Kimberly Rodgers-Melnick, MT-BC, music and rhythm come naturally to us.
“Music impacts your brain circuits associated with empathy, trust, and cooperation, giving it a unique ability to draw people together,” she says.
When applied in a hospital setting, these innate qualities of music can have a strong impact on both patients and families.
“Music’s versatility is one of its greatest strengths,” she says. “From the NICU to hospice, music can empower families to connect with their loved ones in ways that otherwise may not be possible.”
Rodgers-Melnick says that for families struggling to communicate, music therapy can:
- Relax and comfort – During a difficult time with your loved one, music therapy provides relief.
“Engaging actively in music releases endorphins,” she says. “Music therapy interventions, such as song-writing and instrumental play, can stop the stress response where it starts – in our brain.”
- Bridge the gap – When words aren't an option, music may be.
“Speech is primarily processed in the left hemisphere of your brain, but music is processed across hemispheres,” says Rodgers-Melnick. “So sometimes individuals who have lost their speech can still sing.”
- Empower – Music can restore a sense of control.
“Music therapy provides lots of choices, from instruments to songs,” she says. “In a time where most decisions are being made for you, music therapy can restore dignity and give voice to the heart of a situation.”
While research demonstrates the effectiveness of music therapy, music is accessible to everyone and can be used to reduce stress in your personal life. Rodgers-Melnick recommends several ways to use music as a stress-buster, including:
- Learn an instrument
- Participate in group singing or a choir
- Listen to music daily
- Use music-assisted guided imagery
If you’re looking for ideas on how to incorporate music therapy practices into your life, visit University Hospitals Connor Integrative Health Network’s music therapy page.
Kimberly Rodgers-Melnick, MT-BC is a music therapist at UH Connor Integrative Health Network. You can request an appointment with Rodgers-Melnick or any other UH Connor Integrative Health Network provider online.