Music Matters

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to stretch our CRNs’ creativity, forcing teams to look at different ways to address growing concerns of isolation among adults and seniors. We are learning that prolonged isolation increases the risk of abuse and neglect in households, and may also impact one’s mental health according to early scientific and medical research.

The demand for safe alternatives to social gatherings is high. Music and music therapy have proven to be effective in combatting isolation and maintaining mental health and wellness.

The North Shore community response network (CRN) held a music therapy session to test the community’s interest. “We were brainstorming ideas on how we can bring the benefits of music and music therapy to people with dementia and their caregivers,” says Fiona Lewis, Regional Mentor – North Shore, Sea to Sky, and Bella Coola. “We wanted to engage with people with dementia to try to reduce loneliness and provide a brief reprieve for caregivers.”

Music can play an important role in maintaining health and well-being, and quality of life. Music therapy can help intentionally and proactively relieve stress, cultivate social interaction, maintain cognitive function, and connect people with dementia to their loved ones. Recent studies are also showing music therapy benefiting caregivers as a way to manage the growing mental health burden they are experiencing as a result of the pandemic.

A tight-knit group of seven participants engaged with certified music therapist, singer, songwriter, and guitarist Alexina Davis on February 25 for an hour of interactive singing and playing. The North Shore CRN partnered with North Shore Community Resources (NSCR) on this event. (NSCR has a caregiver support program and helped promote the session in the community.)

“The session was a first for the North Shore CRN, and we were lucky to get Alexina. Music therapists have become quite busy during the pandemic,” Fiona adds.

Some participants brought their own instruments to play along. Others chose to sing or clap to the rhythm of the songs. “One person decided to enjoy the session from her deck,” continues Fiona. “She sat back in her chair and closed her eyes. She looked as if she was just absorbing the music.

CRN Coordinator Katherine Seely and Fiona are in the process of planning future music therapy sessions. “We learned a lot,” says Fiona. “The North Shore has a large number of Farsi and Chinese language speakers. It would be wonderful to have music therapists who offer sessions in languages other than English. We’re also always looking for seniors who want to volunteer with us…it’s a great opportunity to connect seniors to each other.”

Tips for Teams Who Want to Hold Music Therapy Sessions

  • If possible, work with your music therapist to develop the program. Distribute song sheets to participants in advance. “People love songs they already know. Plus, a little preparation can boost engagement and interaction in the session, especially if it’s done in Zoom.”
  • Promote your session early. “Try to do this at least two months in advance. This will give you lots of time to publicize your event in the newsletters of other organizations, who can help get the word out. If you can, tell people about the kind of music they can expect to hear.”
  • Help your audience understand how music therapy works. For BC CRN, music therapy is a way to address prolonged isolation and feelings of loneliness. People who are isolated are more at risk of abuse, neglect, and self-neglect.
  • Open your Zoom line early to allow time for participants to socialize before the session starts. “Socializing is also a way to connect people and bring them out of isolation.”

Please contact the North Shore CRN at if you’re interested in volunteering, or participating in a future session.

If you are a caregiver on the North Shore and looking for support, please contact the Caregiver Coach and Peer Support Program at North Shore Community Resources at (604) 985-7138.

Written by: Debbie Chow, Links Communication Solutions. Follow Debbie on LinkedIn: @debbiechowabc.

(Header photo: Creative Commons License)

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