Using music to make connections from the heart
Like many women, Elaine’s life was focused on rearing her children. When they were grown and successfully launched, she began to explore the next chapter of her life and realized that she always had a deep desire to serve and give back. This exploration led Elaine to consider working with the elderly, many of whom are searching for connection and meaning. Elaine knew that her experience as a mom who home schooled her children, combined with her desire to serve, were perfect qualifications to work with seniors and led Elaine to join the AffirmiCare team as a caregiver. What Elaine didn’t expect was the fulfillment she would experience, not just from providing care, but from the deep connections she was able to form with her clients, connections that enrich and bring joy to both!
With each client, Elaine worked to find points of connection and realized, “The older generation loves classical music. So that has been kind of a segue way to connecting with them. I would say overall that my clients have really broadened my perspective on music”. Elaine began slowly began to use her own musical education to establish meaningful emotional connection between her and her clients.
As Elaine explained, “I don’t have a whole lot of music background, I just have a typical elementary school piano background, Junior High violin and cello.”
However, when one of her clients expressed interest in the harmonica, she was game to try something new!
“I drove my client to harmonica lessons until the pandemic. During COVID, we learned harmonica together online using FaceTime video with our teacher. She taught us how to hold and do some of the vibrato on the harmonica. This instrument became my favorite go to instrument because all you have to do is know how to sing and hear the tune. You can come up with any song with a C sharp to begin with. And there’s a lot of tunes with C which allowed my client and me to play duets.”
Elaine Playing The Harmonica:
“Using a music teacher helped keep us accountable and creative while learning new techniques and building muscle memory. This has kept us active and alive during a time of isolation and stress, we always felt good because were doing something for ourselves and each other. Our teacher had us look up different harmonica styles like swing and jazz. One client used to play saxophone in a band and really appreciated learning the harmonica. We were encouraged to learn old master harmonica players like Buddy Green who was at Carnegie Hall. He is known for telling folks if you want to get good, you just have to play.”
In addition to using the harmonica to create music and connection, it is also used as a healing modality for breath control for seniors with compromised lung capacity. Elaine said, “My teacher worked with a client who needed to have more lung capacity and she used the instrument as therapy with her client.”
While Elaine had some knowledge on the power of music to make connection, her personal experience brough it home. “AffirmiCare had us listen to some training on Alzheimer’s and one of them was on using music as a therapy. And it just made me realize that that’s kind of what’s happening with my situation, where when they’re being brought back to music of their time, then it opens up the doors to a lot of different other memories and opens them up to being to connect with their loved ones and others around them in a way that before, they were maybe more closed. And I think that that’s kind of what’s happening with all the times, all the different experiences, whether it’s just using my Google, YouTube videos, or singing spontaneously, or sitting down and doing a lesson, or we’re doing our fun little performance at the New Year’s Eve party. That is really powerful and wonderful.”
Elaine describes her experience as a caregiver as a gift. “It’s not me, bringing this to them, it’s them bringing it to me, which is the excellent part of being a caregiver with seniors. They have so much to offer. They have so many interests, talents and background. During a New Year’s Eve party at the residential community where my client lived, he brought his harmonica along and residents were singing songs. When asked if anyone wants to join in, I said, my client and I have been learning harmonica over the past year, and he’s sitting right here! We started playing some of our favorite tunes such as: Oh, Susanna, and When the Saints Go Marching In. The whole crowd just kept clapping and getting into it and singing along because everybody knows those songs. Another client knew all the words. It was really fun. The staff snapped a picture of us. Sometimes, I would drive my clients and we would sing together in the car and didn’t even need a harmonica.”
Being creative and free, expressing herself, learning and adapting with her clients not only brings her and her client’s joy, but it also supports their health, memories and emotional connection.
Attribution: Thanks to Unsplash images for the background image!