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.


Maintaining a Sense of Self and Sanity

What do you do about ‘you’ when you’ve given up your life to care for someone else?  How do you prevent yourself from drowning in the needs of others?    I’m not sure I consciously asked myself these questions, but I do remember feeling I was disappearing under the weight of expectations, mine included.  The I learned that creativity and self care is part of caregiving. 

My husband, Ash, was diagnosed with Young Onset Dementia in December 2017 at the age of 58, and I became his full-time carer two years later. Both of those events were momentous in their own way and between them I could feel myself disappear, but what to do about it?

It took me a long time to realize that, even though I wasn’t the one with the diagnosis, I was important too. Eventually I decided that if I didn’t look after my own well-being I wouldn’t be any good to Ash either, and so something had to change.

What have I done, I hear you ask. What’s made the difference?  

The very first thing I decided to do was to lose weight and get fit. I began by walking more than I ran, but before I knew it I was running for longer spells than I was walking, and eventually I was fitter than I’d been since my teenage years.

Then I combined the fitness thing with a healthy diet and the weight began to drop off.  Not only that, but I changed shape and developed a waist. Suddenly I could get into clothes that I’d only dreamt about in the past and I began to feel good about myself.

Next, I decided that, wherever possible, I would only buy things that made me smile.  Obviously, there are some things that, by their very nature, are boring (vacuum cleaner bags spring to mind for some reason), but others really can be fun. I bought a new washing up brush that looks like a flower in a vase. I needed a holder for my phone and bought a mini striped deck chair. And so it went on.

Caregivers need to squeeze in moments for themselves.  Eat as well as possible. Take 5 minutes to breathe with your eyes closed and attempt to appreciate your strength, capacity and this one moment.  Be still.  You are worth it.
Self-care includes the intentional acts of eating well, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, maintaining a strong social circle, tending to your spiritual needs, looking after your financial security, and so much more. It is the gentle and creative art of loving yourself.

The biggest test to my state of mind came a year ago when my husband decided that he would much prefer to have our huge bed to himself and I found myself banished to the spare room. This made me swallow hard but I put my shoulders back, thought hard and decided to make it a very special place. I bought a new mattress and beautiful bedding, painted the chest of drawers and bedside table and then added a table and chair. It’s now the loveliest room in the house and it’s all mine. Sometimes it’s about changing your thinking.

Thinking outside the box also came in useful a few months later when I found myself emotionally drained and needing some time to myself.  

A friend comes in once a week so I can have a day off, and I try not to waste that time.  This particular week, however, I was desperate to just do nothing, and remembered a website we’d used a couple of times when on holiday waiting for an overnight flight home. We’d booked a hotel room through the site ( just so that we had a base for that one day. I had a lightbulb moment and looked to see if there were any hotels near us that did such a thing and, sure enough, I found one about an hour away. I booked it (11am to 5pm) for my next day off, took lunch with me and spent the day in silent splendour. I read, slept, read some more, listened to the radio and had a perfectly wonderful time. Since then, friends have come forward with the offer of the use of their houses if they’re ever away. Sometimes all it takes is a few hours of solitude to get you back on track.

There are many more ways I’ve reclaimed myself, but you’re all busy people and I think this is enough for now. However, if you want to know more you can find me at and even have your say.

Jane Robinson is a full time carer for her husband Ash, who was diagnosed with Young Onset Dementia in December 2017, aged 58. You can follow Jane and Ash’s daily ‘adventures’ at, find her on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter @memory_two


Mother’s Day: Reflections on the Journey of Motherhood

Six months ago, I was bestowed with a new title – the honor of Grandmother.  This new chapter in my life has given me a newfound look at the journey of motherhood – my path, my daughter’s, and the path of my mother who is no longer with us.  This Mother’s Day, my daughter and I shared and celebrated a new bond – what it truly, deeply means to physically and emotionally care for another.   

Soon after my grandson was born, this young woman whom I had diapered countless times was giving me a refresher course in how to change one.  Since a baby boy was on the bassinette table, I had a few excuses for the need to relearn this task that was suddenly foreign to me.  Diapers are different in design than they were years ago, and with a boy on his back I could have a fountain in front of me at any moment!  The day this baby was born was truly a milestone for all of us in the family. 

When a milestone occurs in our lives, whether happy or sad, we pause on our journey and breathe the joy or sorrow that pivotal point of celebration or mourning brings.  In the midst of such times, we may reflect upon the past and consider the future, yet we have no choice but to live in that moment that feels like an instant or a lifetime as we shed our tears of joy or pain.  Births, weddings, anniversaries, holidays, illnesses and deaths are these markers that force us to stop and look around us as well as inside of ourselves.

Living in the moment isn’t easy.  It’s something we have to relearn, unlike babies who are born in the immediacy of their needs and the wonder of their immediate world, albeit for only a short time as time soon becomes a reality in their lives.  As caregivers, we are often too busy, too exhausted, or too focused on anything else but the moment at hand in the care of someone whose time is in our hands.  As caregivers, especially of those with Alzheimer’s/dementia, those we care for teach us without trying, that the present is all we have and memories are gifts or curses that have no service to the moment where they stand.  What matters is where we sit in the present, like each individual pearl on the string of a necklace, delicate, translucent and unique.

In between milestones, in everyday life, it’s easy to wander into the past and try to predict the future.  I look at my daughter, a new mother, and recall when motherhood was new to me.  I gaze into the eyes of my grandchild and wonder how long we will share our lives together.  I think about the day my mother’s dying became a certainty, how I cared for her, and how my daughter will care for me in my last days.  

In May, we find ourselves reflecting upon the life of the woman who brought us into this world, whether in a shared memory with another or in the solitude of our mind.  At this time, our mother may be well, frail, have special needs, living with Alzheimer’s or dementia or simply a profound memory.  On that second Sunday in May, she may be at our side sharing in the joys of the day, or physically or mentally far away.  She may be a missing part of the puzzle of our life, a jagged piece shaped of anger-hurt that demands distance, or one with soft, rounded edges that longs to fit back in place in reconciliation.

We cannot change who allowed us our first breath, but we may change how we view that woman who gave us life.  Some of us have more than enough memories to keep us smiling throughout our lives, others have to search for a time when we felt loved.  In any case, at unexpected moments, we see our moms in ourselves, in the changing shapes of our hands or the timbre of our voices.  If we are looking for perfection, we won’t find it, although we like to hold these women to a high standard.  

For some of us, we are also on the other side of this complicated equation, as mothers ourselves with daughters, sons or both, who love us, judge us and spend many of their moments trying to find their way.  There is nothing like having a child to make us feel mortal – except for the realization when our mothers leave this world and we, at any age, have become the elder.  

At some point in our lives we will look at our mothers in a different way.  Whether our perspective shifts to a newfound gratitude or a newly realized forgiveness, we cannot deny the vestiges of that visceral connection we shared through the umbilical cord that joined us, then sent us on our way. 

How did Mother’s Day come to be? According to Google, “The official Mother’s Day holiday arose in the 1900s in the U.S. as a result of the efforts of Anna Jarvis, daughter of Ann Reeves Jarvis. Following her mother’s 1905 death, she held a small memorial service for her mother on May 12, 1907.  She later conceived of Mother’s Day as a way of honoring the sacrifices mothers made for their children.  Soon after, America was observing the day.  In 1914, the U.S. president made it a national holiday, celebrated on the second Sunday of May.”

Each year, as Mother’s Day comes and goes, may we approach our entrance into this world as a gift from one moment in time, and a lesson in caring for ourselves as well as others.  This year, my Mother’s Day held a new kind of celebration for me.  As Nonna, it was a day of wonder, gratitude and greater understanding of the value of each day.  On that day, I wore a string of pearls, mindful to keep my grandson from grabbing and putting it in his mouth while I held him in my arms.  For me, this necklace was a reminder of how we can only live one delicate, translucent and unique day at a time.

Mary is the author of The Planet Alzheimer’s Guide: 8 Ways the Arts Can Transform the Life of Your Loved One and Your Own, a speaker and advocate for arts engagement with persons with Alzheimer’s/dementia, the playwright of Planet A – a play about the inner world of Alzheimer’s, and an AlzAuthors member.


How to Give an Elderly Person a Shower

For many of us, showering has always just been part of regular programming. We do it in the morning before heading out to work, or at night to wash off the stress of the day. It’s not something we normally think too much about, but it’s a totally different story for our elderly loved ones. They may struggle to get in or out of the shower or find themselves in need of assistance. That’s why it’s important for caregivers in the family to learn how to give an elderly person a shower. 

While you don’t necessarily have to wash your elderly parent or family member every day since they’re not as active as they’re used to, it’s still a good rule of thumb to shower at least once or twice a week. You might need to do it a bit more frequently if the weather is hot, or if the senior has been more active than normal to get rid of body odor and bacteria. 

Despite them knowing the importance of showering when it comes to good hygiene, you might actually find yourself having a hard time convincing your elderly parents to take one. This is normal, and at times, expected for those who have Azheimer’s or Dementia. Aside from the fear that accidents might happen, running water can trigger anxiety and hallucinations of drowning or getting sucked into the shower drain. It can also be very challenging for the elderly to go through the motions of showering such as bending or standing, no longer having the bodily strength of their younger years. 

To help you keep them clean, here are a few, simple ways on how to convince someone to take a shower:

  • Ask someone else to assist them. Everyone has a role to play. If your elderly parent is more comfortable with another family member, let them be the one to help them shower. 
  • Try a different phrase. Perhaps ‘bathing’ or ‘showering’ already has a negative connotation for them. Instead, call it ‘cleaning up’ or ‘washing up’, then create a positive association with the phrase. 
  • Upgrade their shower. Alleviate their anxiety by installing handlebars or adding a comfortable chair. You can also spruce it up a bit with speakers that play relaxing music and even add in their favorite calming fragrance to make the once dreadful chore a little more appealing. 
  • Keep showers quick. If they’re averse to showering, it will only make it worse for them the longer the process takes. Try to be swift about it to keep your elderly parent from being agitated. 
  • Create a schedule. Reincorporate showers back into their routine. This will help them think of them less as a stressful event and more as a part of their day-to-day life. 

Once you’ve convinced your elderly parent to take a shower, here’s how you do it:

Step 1: Prep the supplies

What you normally use in the shower will differ from what your loved one will require. Make sure your shower is equipped with supplies that can maximize their comfort and convenience:

  • Hand-held shower – you will need a shower head that detaches to reach every part of the body
  • Mild shampoo – use a mild formula in case the shampoo gets into their eyes
  • Liquid soap and sponge – might be easier and less abrasive on the skin than a bar of soap
  • Grab bars or handlebars – to help keep them steady and prevent any falls
  • Shower chair or bench – they may not be able to sustain long periods of standing
  • Non-slip mats – to prevent them from falling down
  • Cover-up robe – to help them keep their privacy

Step 2: Prep the shower

Once you have all your materials ready, run the shower and check the water temperature with your hand. You don’t want them stepping into it while it’s too hot or too cold. An anti-scald valve can help prevent it from getting too hot. 

As you’re doing this, let  your elderly parent undress and change into their cover-up robe in private. 

Step 3: Lead them to the shower

As soon as everything is all set up, slowly guide them to the shower. Make sure they’re holding onto either you or the handlebar to prevent them from slipping or stumbling. Once there, have the senior sit on the shower chair to start washing. 

They can drape a towel around themselves after taking off their cover-up robe to reduce any awkwardness they might feel. 

Step 4: Help them wash

Allow them to wash on their own if they can. Some elderly people can handle showers, in which case, all you need to do is assist them by handing them the necessary items they will need to reduce the strain on their body. 

If they can’t manage on their own, then you can take over the process and start by washing their hair. Use a mild formula and lather it on. If you want to save time, you can also try using a no-rinse shampoo and conditioner. 

Next, grab the sponge and your liquid soap. Gently wash the face, then the arms, torso and back. The rule of thumb is to move from the cleanest areas to the dirtiest ones. While doing so, make sure to take note of sores, rashes, or anything that might need to be reported to their doctor. 

Allow them to clean their private parts on their own, unless they’re really unable to do so. Afterwards, rinse everything off. Turn the shower off and help them dry. If they’re prone to skin dryness, help them apply lotion if they can’t do it themselves. Afterwards, help them put on their robe and slowly guide them out of the shower to put their clothes on. 

Showering is an intimate process and having an elderly person allow you to assist them speaks volumes on how much they trust you. However, learning how to give an elderly person a shower is just one of the many things a caregiver must know in order to take care of their loved ones. 



How to Transfer a Patient from Bed to Wheelchair

Safety is very important when it comes to taking care of a patient. Whenever you’re required to transfer a patient from bed to wheelchair, always remember that clear communication is important to minimize potential risks. If the patient is unable to help you, then the transfer will require two people or a full-body sling lift. 

It takes strength and coordination to be able to move in and out of a wheelchair. Some people are able to do this on their own, but some need assistance. Caregivers will need to know how to properly prepare for the transfer as well as how to position themselves while doing so. 

Key things to remember

  • Make sure the wheelchair is as close as possible to where you are moving the person, to lessen the strain on the muscles during the move. 
  • When transferring from bed to wheelchair, do so on the stronger side of the person’s body to prevent falling.
  • Keep the wheelchair locked while a person is moving in or out of it to reduce the risk of accidents. 
  • Move any foot pedal or leg rest out of the way.
  • As much as possible, use a gait belt to prevent injuries. 
  • Bend your knees while transferring to protect your back.
  • Practice first under the supervision of a more experienced caregiver to ensure smooth transfers.

Step 1 : Prepare for the transfer

Move the wheelchair directly next to the surface of the bed. You can opt for a slight angle around 30-45 degrees, but it’s not mandatory. Lock the brakes and move any possible obstruction out of the way. Communicate clearly with the person you are transferring so that you can make adjustments depending on his or her condition. This also syncs both of your efforts, making the transfer a lot smoother.

Step 2:  Sit them up

Explain what you’re about to do clearly to the person you’re transferring, so that there are no surprises. Once everything is set, turn them on their side so that they’re facing the wheelchair. Next, put an arm under their neck, with your hand supporting the shoulder blade. Then put your other hand under the knees. Swing the legs over the edge of the bed, so that they’re sitting up.

Step 3: Help them stand

First, let them scoot to the edge of the bed. Then, help them put on skid-proof socks or shoes to prevent them from slipping. Once done, put your arms around the chest and clasp your hands behind their back. Alternatively, you may also use a transfer belt for a firmer handhold. Lean back, shift your weight, and then lift them up from the bed until their feet are firmly on the ground. 

Step 4:  Pivot toward the wheelchair

Continue to clasp your hands around the patient while having them pivot toward the wheelchair. If there’s another caregiver present, have them support either the wheelchair or the patient from behind. If you have a gait belt, place it on the patient for better grip during the transfer. As they are turning, the person being transferred can either hold onto you or reach for the wheelchair for balance. 

Step 5:  Sit them down

As soon as their legs are touching the seat of the wheelchair, bend your knees to help lower them into the seat. If there is another caregiver, they can help position the buttocks of the person being transferred and support the chair. Reposition the foot and arm rests and help them shuffle in their seat to be comfortable. 

Transferring a patient from the bed to the wheelchair is just one of the many responsibilities a caregiver has to juggle on a daily basis. CircleOf was made specifically to help caregivers manage their tasks, stay connected with other caregivers, privately share information, and coordinate care so that these tasks can either be delegated or split between two helpers. Caregiving can be challenging at times, but it’s always a rewarding experience.