The sound of a vacuum cleaning up breakfast. A neighbor's incessant screaming. Endless chatter of daytime television.
Noise cluttering up the brain of someone who once climbed mountains, enjoyed symphonies, danced in poodle skirts, designed aircraft.
The piercing quiet of sitting with the same people every meal and struggling for conversation. The soft hush of countless rushing feet and no hello's. The silence of waiting by the phone for hours, hoping it will ring.
The silence of isolation engulfing one who cooked for the whole neighborhood, who fell in love, and never missed a church potluck.
Bleak. But all too often true.
Does this break your heart? Mine does and wants to scream:
IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE THIS WAY.
And there's good news, things are changing. As the baby boomers age, more attention and services are developing. But, it's still not good enough. We need to start earlier, think harder, dream bigger. Long term care worker's are often overworked, underpaid, and functioning in burn out. Families are overwhelmed, confused, and grieving.
How can they find relief for themselves and their loved ones?
Let's return to that deafening cycle of noise and silence. The place where over 9 million Americans find themselves each year--needing help to complete daily tasks, facing dreaded diagnoses, requiring outside services like home health, skilled nursing, or hospice care.
And then, they hear a voice coming down the hallway singing, "Oh What a Beautiful Morning." As it draws nearer, the staff takes a breath, residents open their eyes, the atmosphere changes. Toes tapping, smiles beaming, and voices singing; I enter the room.
"Oh, there's my special friend! I am so glad to see you," Joyce says as she sits up straight in her wheelchair.
I draw the residents, or my friends as I like to call them, into a circle and lead our morning songs. Hannah stops yelling as she channels all her focus into saying the word "sunshine" as we sing, "You are my _______." Dan smiles and pats his legs just like the drum set he used to play.
Joy. Life. Music. Disrupting the pattern of noise and silence.
These are the moments I live for as a music therapist. The opportunity to bring joy, life, and harmony to quiet and noisy places is sacred and an honor.
But I can't do it on my own.
In my next blog, I'll share some tangible tips on how you can fill your home with joyful noises and intentional silences.
Click here to find out more about our Eldercare Music Therapy services