What are the Benefits of Music Therapy? Singing Along with Memory Care Residents at Artman

August 2, 2019

A fitting name, Inspiration Café continues to be Artman’s quaint and cozy relaxation retreat where residents, family, and staff, exchange friendly conversations over comforting, sometimes caffeinated, refreshments.

Every Wednesday morning, Inspiration Café is full of joy and reminiscence, as memory care residents share, smiles and laughter in Artman’s extra-ordinary music therapy program.

Extra-ordinary is the word that music therapist, Sarah Biedka, likes to use to describe the community at Artman, stating that each member of Artman’s staff wants to make every day special for residents and their families.

That’s what drives me. Even if it is just another Wednesday, yes, you’re going to wake up, have your coffee, and someone might stop by to play the piano, but I’m going to do whatever I can to make it extra. I always say living at Artman is an extraordinary experience.

Sarah Biedka MT-BC, music therapist at Artman

Indeed it is, as Sarah engages residents from all levels of care at Artman in music therapy programs, she provides opportunities that benefit their well-being in immeasurable ways.  Ready to make this Wednesday extra-ordinary, Sarah and memory care residents gather around the piano, preparing to experience music therapy’s wide range of benefits.

What is Music Therapy?

The American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) defines music therapy as the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program.

What are the benefits of Music Therapy for older adults?

According to AMTA, music therapy provides opportunities for:

  • Memory recall which contributes to reminiscence and satisfaction
  • Positive changes in mood and emotional states
  • Sense of control and purpose in life
  • Self-awareness
  • Anxiety and stress reduction
  • Non-medicinal form of pain management
  • Creating emotional connections with others
  • Enhanced memory
  • Improved communication

Music acts as a form of sensory stimulation, which provokes responses due to the familiarity, predictability, and feelings of security associated with it. For this reason, music therapy treatment is particularly effective for older adult populations especially those who experience challenges with cognitive and social functioning.

Your gift to Artman supports programs like music therapy and gives residents enriching opportunities to make every moment meaningful!

Tuning in with Sarah and Music Therapy at Artman

I emphasize community in my work because music therapy is very much about relationships. I want to foster a relationship with music that helps each resident understand their own identity.

For Sarah and residents at Artman, there’s always a reason to smile

As memory care residents gather around Sarah’s piano in Artman’s Inspiration Café, she begins her program by connecting music to geographic locations.

Unraveling a map across the café table for residents to ponder, Sarah asks the places they’ve been to throughout the United States. As residents reply with the various cities and destinations they recall visiting throughout their lifetime, Sarah points to the place on the map they currently reside.

“We’re here in Ambler,” she says pointing to the extended Philadelphia region on the map. Reflecting the differences between places residents have been from past to present, Sarah says much of her music therapy programs center around reminiscence. “I use reminiscence as a way for residents to understand who they used to define themselves as, and who they are now,” she explains. “In memory care, it’s shaping reminiscence and helping them ground that in reality.”

Sarah connects music with the map laid out on the table by playing songs with states and cities in their lyrics. Songs like “Carolina in the Morning,” and “Heart of Texas,” get residents humming along and engaging with one another.

Making Every Moment Meaningful

As Sarah guides the program along, she prompts memory care residents to be present in the moment. Playing the song, “Oh What a Beautiful Morning,” memory care resident, Jenny (pictured below), smiles as she stands beside Sarah at the piano, waving her hands and singing along.

“Did you have a beautiful morning?” Sarah asks Jenny.

Jenny and Sarah sharing smiles during music therapy

Jenny excitedly replies, “Yes!”

Sarah asks, “What was beautiful about it?”

“People treated me so nicely.” Jenny smiles as another memory care resident, Betty chimes in, “I had a beautiful morning,” she says. “What was beautiful about it?” Sarah asks. Betty kindly answers, “All of you people!”

As the program continues to spread smiles and laughter throughout the café, Artman staff passing through can’t help but join in. A member of Artman’s staff, James (pictured below), who regularly attends Sarah’s music therapy sessions at Inspiration Cafe, enters the room and begins dancing alongside resident, Lorraine, who smiles back at him with joy. Familiar tunes bring feelings of comfort as memory care residents shape an understanding of their identities while being an important part of the community.

Sarah jokes that she’s quite obsessed with music therapy and when asked what motivates her work within the community at Artman each and every day, she says, “My motivation has been to make sure that regardless of your context in life, you always receive an outstanding level of compassionate care.” With compassion as her driving source of motivation, Sarah continues to spread light, laughter and a sense of belonging throughout the community.