Caregiving Mental Health Wellness

Benefits Of Music Therapy For The Elderly

Why are people talking about music therapy for the elderly? Music has a unique way of bringing joy and jolting positive memories. A single song can spark positive emotions and feelings in seconds.

There are plenty of different things that elderly people grapple with as they age. Isolation, illness and limited physical activity negatively impacts emotional, mental, and physical health. How to help?

Music Therapy is a formal process of using different musical techniques to help people with emotional, mental, and physical health. It’s especially useful within the senior population.

What Is It?

Music Therapy is different ‘treatments’ that include listening to, singing, and even creating music. According to the American Music Therapy Association, formal music therapy was defined and first used by the United States War Department in 1945. It helped military service members recovering in Army hospitals with occupational therapy, education, recreation and physical reconditioning. A music therapy session included listening to music, creating music, and dancing.

As caregivers, we are always seeking ways to have a positive impact on the health and wellness of those we take care of. This includes those in physical rehabilitation, working on their range of movement, and all of those who need more motivation to get moving. Music is shown to be effective at helping people get through emotionally tough times and better cope.

How Does Music Therapy For The Elderly Work?

Music therapy has shown to be effective for symptoms of emotional, physical, and even spiritual needs. Music therapy is a go-to a clinical treatment plan for therapists who are working with elderly patients as well as those who have survived a stroke or have dementia or alzheimer’s.

Music helps stimulate cognitive function and opens up new opportunities to learn skills. It also helps activate knowledge and memory. This type of therapy offers both short and long-term benefits with recall.

Recent research backs this up and points to the fact that music may improve mental health as much as exercise. A scientific review published in JAMA concludes that music’s benefit to mental health is actually comparable to that of exercise.

Looking for a healthy exercise for those who have cognitive decline such as demetias and alzheimers? A dementia patient may be able to remember things better or at least feel joy and happiness associated with music.

Music Therapy Treatments

There are several different kinds of music therapy treatment options available for those who need it. These include:

Song Selection

A lot of us enjoy hearing the music they grew up with. It’s best to go with their generation of music. My mom loved Neil Diamond, as do I, so we belt out anything from Hot August Nights. With song exercises, people choose the songs that uplift their spirits and that help make their day. We all like to relive the good times in our lives and feel the happiness.

Name a Song

Name a song or name that tune is common activity in music therapy. While it seems simple on the outside, this is a memory exercise. First, play a short clips of music. Next try to recall the song’s name, melody and lyrics. This helps dig up some memories from the past and strengthens memory recall.

Sing Along

Karaoke anyone? A lot of seniors will find plenty of happiness being able to choose their favorite songs to play. Sing-alongs bring just as much joy, if not dancing. For any larger groups, the therapist display the lyrics to the song for everyone to sing along with. Some therapists have found more success by having different performances of popular sing-along songs. This is a good way to get friends and family play too.

Play Classical Music

This is a genre of music that is well known to be good for mental health. Not only is it relaxing, but it’s a good way to promote relaxation and mood. Give seniors the chance to enjoy more downtime with this music, it can help promote more restful sleep.

Benefits and Expected Results Of Music Therapy For The Elderly

Music therapy is a simple way to keep our brains active and young. It helps our loved ones recall memories and ward off depressive thoughts and feelings. Depression is common among the elderly. Music helps our aging population enhance speaking skills and improve their memory. It can also help to slow the deterioration of speech skills when one suffers from dementia.

Physical Skills: Music therapy can be a good way to encourage people to move. It can help them get more movement into their daily life by encouraging them to dance more. They burn more calories and keep better movement in their daily life through clapping, toe-tapping, and shaking what their mama gave them.

Cognitive Well-Being: Music therapy is a good way to help people retain their memories and process them. Music is one of the best ways to recall something from because it has strong ties to events and memories from the past.

To achieve the best results with music therapy, you need to find the right music. The music needs to resonate with the person you are caring for. Learn what music was played during their wedding or other significant moments in their lives. It’s all about resurfacing joy and purpose.

Music therapy is a fun addition to help your loved one age gracefully. It can ward off depression and help boost their spirits in more ways than one. The CircleOf app is designed to help ensure that caregivers can organize, collaborate, and ask the tam for the next song in your mixed tape. So gather your care circle’s custom music selection and help your loved ones move through the tempo of aging.

Mental Health

Nature Does Good Things to the Human Brain

As a child, my family did a lot of traveling. My parents loved to visit national parks and forests, state parks, and scenic byways of every kind. As fun as it was, I didn’t appreciate the beauty of nature displayed during those childhood trips until I was an adult.

The call of the beautiful wild

One afternoon, while my sister and I were talking about our various childhood trips and travels, she told me about her first trip to Sedona, Arizona as a grown-up. She and her husband were on their way to attend a wonderful, company-paid weekend of rest and relaxation. On their drive up to Sedona from the Phoenix airport, my sister confessed that even though this weekend trip sounded delightful, she had a lot on her mind and was feeling rather stressed. Besides, she was more of an ocean girl than a desert girl.

So, while she was brooding and remembering about all the responsibilities she should be taking care of instead of spending time in the desert, their car rounded a curve in the road. Suddenly, spread out in front of them was a spectacular sight. Sedona!

The vibrancy and variance of all the colors in the stone formations jutting upwards from the painted landscape to the brilliant blue sky created a vivid and mesmerizing scene. At that moment, my sister understood why Sedona, Arizona is called the Most Beautiful Place on Earth. She also realized the stress that had been plaguing her began melting away.

Nature is a natural mood enhancer

A study done at Stanford University confirms the de-stressing effect. It strongly suggests that getting out into natural environments could be an easy way to improve moods for city dwellers. Researchers discovered that people who visit natural settings have a lower stress hormones level immediately afterward than people who have not recently been outside.

Taking a walk in the wild, with fresh air and natural light provides a world of benefits – like the room to breathe freely, and Vitamin D. Be sure to wear a hat to protect yourself from getting too much sunshine.

Nature writer for National Geographic, David Gessner also explains that science is proving what we have always known intuitively: nature does good things to the human brain—it makes us healthier, happier, and smarter.

The beauty of nature all dressed up for fall

My husband and I recently experienced a wonderful, stress-reducing journey as well. We traveled up through the New England states into Canada during this lovely fall season to visit family and enjoy Canadian Thanksgiving. The trees (especially in New Brunswick, Canada) are stunningly beautiful. They turn every color imaginable to create some of the most enchanting landscapes I have ever witnessed. I remembered what my sister had told me about her experience in Sedona. I could relate.

In spite of our busy lives, is there a few moments we can devote to soaking in a bit of natural beauty? Listen, what do you hear? It is the call of the (beautiful) wild.

Senia Owensby has always loved to write. Her passion for writing has produced a broad variety of literature, including Finishing Well: Finding the Joy in Dementia, a practical and sometimes humorous guide for the journey. She is also a member of AlzAuthors.

Senia lives in a small cottage in North Carolina. She’s married to the love of her life, and is also a mother and grandmother. Since retiring, she spends her time writing, beekeeping, and working in her garden.


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Mental Health

7 Practical Yet Simple Steps to Improved Family Communication

“Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstandings, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.” —Albert Schweitzer

Meet Barbara:

“Rant alert! As if caring for your loved ones through terminal illness or behavior issues isn’t bad enough, what gets me is when your siblings can’t find any compassion or consideration.

“My mum moved into residential care two weeks ago, and she loves it. Why? Because she has company and gets good care. I fully supported her decision.

“But my brothers? Oh no! One stopped talking to me. The other doesn’t understand why I haven’t found a job and moved out of the family home, and he wants me to pay for my mum’s residential care.

“Times like these are when I’m convinced that I’m adopted. I’m so angry! I have constantly put my dreams on hold, and I now finally get a chance to rebuild my business with some great products and services but with no support from my family.”

Communication within Barbara’s family needs mending.

Interestingly, during the same week Barbara posted in her online support group, another caregiver posted these words: “I HATE my siblings. That is all.”

This member received 29 responses, with many sharing her sentiments and saying, “Me too!”

What’s going on? Why is there so much hatred among some family members?

Where a good relationship exists, the caregiver, patient, and family laugh together even when they make mistakes. Conversely, situations sometimes erupt and reveal communication gaps when there is friction. Instead of working together, some siblings only have feelings of bitterness, anger, and resentment toward each other.

What You Can Do About Family Conflict

One family therapist explains an important reason why brothers and sisters are so often in conflict:

“Each family has a certain number of resources, some emotional and some material. When siblings fight, they usually compete for these resources, including everything from paternal love to money and clothes.”

In Barbara’s situation, some of the conflicts and breakdowns in communication seem to be about money. One of her brothers believed that she should pay for their mother’s residential care. Other issues in Barbara’s family involve feelings of resentment—at least from Barbara’s perspective. One brother wants Barbara to move out of the family home and be on her own—also about money.

The only way Barbara and her brothers can get to the core of their disputes is to talk openly. Such a meeting involves interpersonal communication skills, where the siblings can exchange information, feelings, and meaning through verbal and nonverbal communication, ideally in person.

But I believe the most critical communication skill is effective and active listening, which builds trust. Through it, you can make and bring opposing ideas closer together. Conflicts or confrontations often occur due to family stress and other negative emotions, such as worry, anger, grief, guilt, etc. These negative emotions not only affect your health, but family dynamics as well.

Barbara might have been experiencing inner emotional turmoil, which caused her to express herself so vehemently in her online post.

In the field of psychotherapy, there exist four methods of conflict resolution. They include:

1. Competition. This method refers to a power struggle involving who gets the upper hand. The result is, “I win, and you lose.”

2. Accommodation. You concede to resolve issues with this style. The result is, “I lose, and you win.”

3. Compromise. Many believe this is the best way to resolve conflict, resulting in “I lose, and you lose.”

4. Cooperation. Referred to as a “win-win” situation, both parties cooperate for the best outcome in their favor.

Conflict Can Happen in Any Relationship

Regardless of the type of relationship, there are four common causes of severe disagreements or disputes:

1. Lack of shared understanding

2. Poor communication skills

3. Unclear or unfair expectations

4. Power plays and manipulations

Build your own circle of care

Download the app and give it a try. It’s free!

Use These Seven Simple Steps to Improve Your Family Communication

Step 1: Prepare to listen with understanding.

In Barbara’s case, she should ask to meet with her brothers face-to-face, saying calmly, “Let’s talk.”

Step 2: Engage in active listening.

Barbara must engage in active listening by nodding or making statements such as, “I see,” or “I get it,” asking sincere questions, and expressing herself with mildness and respect for better results.

Step 3. State your position tactfully.

In this step, you should avoid blame, shame, or guilt to present your case. Use statements that start with “I.”

Step 4. Give the benefit of the doubt.

Expect the best results. Barbara could assume that her brothers would be sympathetic to her point of view.

Step 5. Be hard on the problem.

Focus on the issue at hand but do not attack the people. Avoid generalizing by using statements such as, “You always do this” or “You never do that.”

Step 6. Resist casting blame.

The only time casting blame is adequate is when you’re blaming yourself, which will denote humility. Make statements such as, “I messed up; I apologize.”

Step 7. Negotiate with confidence.

You are not afraid to confront the issues. Nearly everything is negotiable.

Aim for a win-win solution. It may not be easy, but it is well worth the effort.

In addition to the above seven steps, showing empathy can help, as some refer to this quality as “The Bedrock of Conversation.” How so?

According to Dr. Bernard Guerney of Pennsylvania State University: “Empathy is the capacity to appreciate the other person’s feelings and point of view—whether you agree with him. Empathy is the foundation upon which we build everything else.”

Empathy allows you to put yourself mentally in the other person’s shoes so that you can feel and think as they do. Doing so will result in understanding, appreciation, and respect, even if you disagree with their point of view.

Empathy serves to foster better communication people want and need.

To Summarize:

Communication is the exchange of thoughts and feelings. Miscommunication is a failure to communicate adequately. As with all conflict, family conflict occurs due to a lack of shared understanding, poor communication skills, unclear or unfair expectations, and power plays and manipulations.

Show empathy.

As a caregiver, I implore you to follow the seven practical yet simple steps in this article and watch communication within your family improve. With the stress, overwhelm, and struggles you are undoubtedly experiencing in caring for your loved one, you (all of us) need family!

We must try to get along.

Begin now and make your caregiving days less stressful and more loving, joyful, and peaceful through effective communication with family.

Rosa Chillis is the author of “A Family Caregiver’s Guide: 7 Secrets to Convert Negative Triggers to Positive Emotions.” She was a 24/7 caregiver to her dear husband for three years, including hospice at home. She holds a Master of Education degree and is a Certified Caregiving Consultant. As an experienced caregiving wife, she has walked in your shoes. 

Caregiving Community Mental Health

How To Hire the Right Caregiving Professional to Support You

Keeping a life during a life of caregiving can feel like a tall order. How do you cope with the pressure, the stress, the worries, the needs and stay present in your career, your priorities, your relationships? How do you stay your best while getting the best for your caree?

A professional, like a therapist, coach, or consultant, can be a huge help as you navigate the caregiving experience. We offer suggestions to help you choose the professional right for you:

  1. If you want to heal a past pain, then a therapist will be the right choice for you. A therapist can help you cope with the past and its impact on the present while putting strategies together so you are ready for the future. For instance, a therapist can help if you struggle caring for a family member because of a past abusive relationship. In addition, the right therapist can help you heal from PTSD and the impact of the abusive relationship on you. If you work, check with your employer’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to learn if you have free counseling sessions available to you.
  2. If you would like a professional assessment of your caree’s situation, then an Aging Life Care Specialist can help. (Aging Life Care Specialists used to be called geriatric care managers.) Typically a nurse or social worker, an Aging Life Care Specialist can recommend services and programs for your caree, can put plans in place so your caree remains safe at home, and can help manage your caree’s team of home care workers. The Aging Life Care Specialist focuses on your caree’s needs because of their specialization in the aging process. You also can check with your employer’s EAP to see if you have a benefit that offers free consultations with an Aging Life Care Specialist.
  3. If you would like help for yourself, then connect with one of our Certified Caregiving Consultants™, who have expertise in the caregiving experience. A CCC can help you understand your priorities, create coping strategies and manage your stress. CCCs can help you find the right facilities, agencies, resources, products, and services for you and your caree. In addition, CCCs can brainstorm solutions with you and provide an empathetic ear so you can vent without guilt. Our CCCs also have a personal caregiving experience, which means they bring an understanding of the experience into their work. The CCCs focus on you because of their specialization in the caregiving experience.
  4. If you want to focus on achieving your own personal goals during a caregiving experience, you could hire a life coach to help. Life coaches help you start where you are to move forward into achieving personal or career successes. Many life coaches specialize in helping you with specific life goals, like losing weight, changing careers, or writing a book.

You can use these professionals in any way that works for you. Perhaps you hire an Aging Life Care Specialist every January to assess your caree and review what additional services or programs your caree may need. You may want to take advantage of free sessions with counselors available through your company’s EAP every year. When you exhaust the free sessions, you can hire a CCC or life coach. Maybe you hire a CCC for monthly sessions so you can talk it out with a professional who gets it so that you can hear the right solutions. Perhaps you hire a coach or therapist or CCC for quarterly sessions each year. Whatever will work for you works.

About the Author
Denise M. Brown began supporting family caregivers in 1990 and currently offers leadership and  coach training for both family caregivers and former family caregivers. She began helping her parents after her father’s 2004 bladder cancer diagnosis. Visit to learn more.

Mental Health

How to Talk to a Parent with Dementia

Whenever a loved one is diagnosed with dementia, communication can be challenging, even more so when it’s your parent. People who suffer from Dementia or Alzheimer’s typically have trouble expressing their thoughts and relaying how they feel. 

Despite the limitations, there are ways to help you retain your strong connection with a loved one. It’s important to stay patient and calm so that they won’t feel frustrated whenever they’re not able to communicate as they previously could. 

Here are some tips on how to talk to a parent with dementia:

Less distraction, more conversation

A quiet place has always been conducive to conversation—this is especially so when you are dealing with a dementia patient.

Background noise, whether it’s music or other people’s conversation, can distract and trigger confusion. It’s important to find a place where your loved one can focus on his or her thoughts without being disturbed by external things. 

Take it slow and prioritize clarity

When having a conversation with your loved one, always remember that they’re not as quick to pick up on things as they used to. So speak clearly, and calmly. Then, give them time to take it all in. 

You don’t have to increase your volume or over-explain what you mean. Just keep it short, sweet, and with pauses in between.

Remind them of fond memories

It pays to not come empty-handed. When you bring an old photo, or play a favorite song, it can help remind your loved one of some of their fondest memories. This can be something the two of you can talk about at length. 

However, pay close attention to their reaction. If they’re not recalling anything from the memorabilia, it’s best to change the course of conversation into something that won’t trigger feelings of frustration or anxiety from them.

Words are not the only way to talk

Even before learning words, babies and very young children can understand feelings of being safe with a simple touch from a parent. The same principle applies when you’re caring for a parent with dementia. 

There are times when a simple act of holding a loved one’s hand can communicate warmth and care more than if words were used. Don’t be afraid to reach out. This can be beneficial to both the caregiver and the one being cared for. 

Walk down memory lane together

Sometimes we can fall into the trap of asking our loved ones if they remember certain people, places, or events in their lives. Despite the good intention, it can cause anxiety or feelings of frustration should your loved one fail to remember. Instead, make the conversation less of a probe and more of a mutual reminiscing, where the loved one can chime in but would feel no pressure to do so. 

Empower your loved one

Whenever they struggle for words, refrain from taking over and finishing their sentences for them. Patience is important whenever you’re talking to someone with dementia. Always remember that lashing out or cutting them off can only lead to anxiety and weaken the connection you have with each other. 

Silence is part of the conversation

Dementia changes people. Your once gregarious parent can be significantly less talkative than you’re used to. That’s totally normal. Lulls in conversation are expected so take the silence as part of the conversation and not something you have to fill in. Your presence is enough comfort. 

Tech is your friend

Even if busy schedules, other responsibilities or circumstances prevent you from visiting in person, you can still find a way to talk to your loved one. If you can opt for a video call, do so. Seeing your face can be easier for them to engage with, compared to just hearing your voice over the phone.

Follow their schedule

Plan your visit around a time of the day you know your loved one is more receptive to conversation. Consider their routine and mood to find the right opportunity to engage in conversation. Some can get confused and anxious in the late afternoon or early evening, so it might be better to look for another opportunity. Having a log of times and the kind of conversation you had with your loved one can help you determine the best hour to call or visit in the future. 

Conversation goes both ways

You don’t have to always be the one steering the conversation. Allow your parent to talk about whatever they’re feeling at the moment. It’s important to give them a space to freely express their thoughts or emotions. No matter the topic, just be present and enjoy the ride.

Make your questions pointed

The simplest way to start an activity or spark a conversation is by asking a simple yes or no question. Instead of giving them the task of thinking of an activity or topic, come armed with suggestions so they can just choose whatever they feel most comfortable with at that moment.

Get moving

Find ways to stay active, even if it’s just walking around the house. Learn the things they like doing and spend time on them together. It can be something simple like bird-watching, or taking them out for a quick drive. These can go a long way in helping your loved one feel better.

Try to make them laugh

Laughter is one good way to release tension. Add humor to your conversation with jokes, funny anecdotes, or even through physical humor. It can help lighten up the mood and make the time spent together a highlight of the day for your loved one. 

Mind the feeling, not the fact

People with dementia often have challenges with their memory, and their stories reflect this. If your parent is talking about their own grandparents like it happened just last week, humor them. Go along with their story instead of correcting them, which will only end up causing negative emotions. Instead, be there as they relive a memory and focus on how they’re feeling. This will give you insight on how to approach certain topics in the future.

Caring for a parent with dementia can be challenging, but also very rewarding. Always remember that you’re not alone in this. CircleOf can help take some of the load off your shoulders by helping you manage caregiving tasks with other members of your family. So just take it one day, one conversation at a time.