In a sunroom at Providence Manor on a sunny day in March, residents, family members and staff gather together awaiting Kimberly Dolan, a Music Therapist from Synergy Music Therapy & Wellness who provides weekly music therapy programming.
The session begins and almost immediately, everyone in the room is actively engaged, tapping their toes, singing along and dancing. By providing this creative outlet and connection, the benefits of music therapy are clear and have a tremendous, positive impact on residents at Providence Manor.
“There are so many heart-warming moments that give you full body chills,” says Stacy Jowett, the home’s Coordinator of Resident Activities & Student Placement. “When you hear someone speak when they haven’t for a while, or watch them dance, sing and make eye contact when they don’t usually participate – it is truly joyous!”
What started as a trial on one resident home area has now expanded to weekly programming on all six-resident home areas. This expansion was facilitated by generous funding from University Hospitals Kingston Foundation donors.
The Recreation team at Providence Manor assist the music therapists with the special programming each week. Music therapy focuses on using music to stimulate cognitive function, fine and gross motor movements, reminiscence, reality orientation, and reduction of agitation and anxiety.
“Providing music therapy at Providence Manor means offering an accessible opportunity for connection (with self and others) and for active involvement throughout each individuals wellness journey, regardless of ability,” says Kimberly.
Kimberly has been involved with music therapy at the home for the last several years now. What started out as 1:1 music therapy sessions with an individual blossomed into a much larger vision.
“In my brief, weekly visits to Providence Manor, I was struck by the deep care that staff, residents and family members have for the home and I began to envision what music therapy could offer to this community,” explains Kimberly.
As a result, Synergy Music Therapy & Wellness was established in 2021 with five core pillars to guide their mission.
Kimberly’s vision and deep passion for music therapy is obvious. Each weekly session with Kimberly is unique with the specific needs of the resident being met each time. Kimberly and the recreation staff have a special way of engaging with the residents as a group and individually by making their way around the room on a stool with wheels – providing direct and interactive contact.
“What I am constantly inspired by with music therapy is the diversity of responses and engagement I see from residents. Music is inherently beneficial to our health in releasing hormones that promote positive responses, relaxation, reduction of stress, worry and physical pain, connection, and so on. Certified music therapists use this knowledge and deep understanding of music to support the wellness of those we work with which can look very different depending on the person or group,” explains Kimberly.
Witnessing this special program and experiencing how much the residents truly enjoy it, is enough to bring happy tears to your eyes. Kimberly says she feels privileged to see these wonderful moments and experiences personally.
“In music therapy especially, we see pieces of people that we may not see in other contexts. We see someone tapping, clapping, or singing along when they otherwise may keep to themselves. We hear stories and memories brought on by a piece of music or musical motif. We feel the grief, pain, longing, pride, hope, gratitude, joy, and sorrow that make up all of our lives and we use the music and therapeutic relationship to hold space for these experiences. Music therapy provides a space in which we can validate and celebrate our authenticity,” continues Kimberly.
Staff at the home have seen increased social engagement, verbal and musical expression, and autonomy. A real group dynamic is present at each program, with participants interacting with one another spontaneously through greetings, support, musical improvisation and asking opinions during group discussions.
“The residents benefit so greatly from this program,” explains Stacy. “One of the groups has even written their own songs. I was lucky enough to see them sing along with their own lyrics, and it was one of the most touching things I’ve ever seen. These moments of joy and connection are why we, as staff, do what we do. And music therapy provides these moments every week. It’s simply stunning!”
Providence Care’s commitment to improving quality of care, and enhancing the quality of life for those we serve, is demonstrated every week through shared songs and laughs.
Music therapy at Providence Manor lifts the spirits of residents and allows for a level of engagement that is truly enhancing the resident experience.
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