Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Wall - A video

I thought this video was interesting. Take a look and see what you think.
I am a firm supporter for participation in the arts - It is for all ages.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Music and Brain Injury

Last night I was reading a post on a Facebook board for Therapeutic Recreation directors asking about how best to use music to help people who have had traumatic brain injuries. I actually got kind of worked up reading the responses. I felt that people might not be recognizing the difference between the needs of people experiencing dementia and those with TBI. 

I wrote a short answer to that post but really I have a lot to say on the topic. Music is so much more than entertainment. It is part of who we are, a part of our experiences and what we remember. It is what some of us marched to, what we danced to at our weddings, and what we sang as we rocked our babies.

I have always loved music and grew up with it around me. My dad played piano and I started piano lessons when I was in grade two. I was always singing and I even met my husband when we were both members of our high school choir. Our four children all took music lessons and I can't begin to add up the hours of lessons, and concerts we took part in.

After I had the brain injury I developed a love / hate relationship with sound. Music and sounds had a horrible effect on me. I was very easily overwhelmed by movement and noise. The sound of music made me nauseous and dizzy and any kind of beat seemed to kick that constant headache I was feeling into high gear.  The more the music, the less I was able to focus and the more disjointed my memory and thinking became. I cried because I was missing music that had loved and I cried because music had the ability to incapacitate me even  further than I already was.

As time went by my physical and occupational therapists started to do things like adding sound and music to sessions and trying to get me to tolerate the music. A lot of therapy for dizziness is in the category of .. " You are not going to like this.. but we are going to take you to the point of being dizzy and then back it down a bit so we can build up your tolerance. Don't worry I will jump out of the way when you start to throw up!". Yes it is absolutely that horrible and you have to keep going back over and over for more torture, also called VRT or Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy, if you want any chance of having a life outside your bedroom.

Gradually music, in small doses, became one of  my greatest therapy helps. I started guitar lessons and I am sure I would not have regained such full use of my hand if I had not worked so very hard to get my hand moving on that guitar.  What I did not realize at the time was what a big impact the music was having on helping me recover some of my cognitive skills, especially my memory and sequencing of tasks.

My husband and I joined a community choir and there I was - out of the house doing something new and something other than therapy sessions. It was social, it was a new kind of learning and it felt encouragingly like a normal person kind of thing to do.
As I began my journey toward becoming a Recreation Therapist it was arranged that I would volunteer at the Misericordia Hospital. One volunteer position was helping with the spiritual care, mainly transporting people, handing out music and singing my little heart out with the residents during services. The other main job was assisting in a group program led by a music therapist who came weekly to the attached personal care home. The music was so powerful in both programs and what joy it brought to the residents!

I must admit that I personally don't do that much with music when I am at work at the personal care home. I have lots of opportunity when I could choose to run a music programs, but I rarely do. I think I value the role of music so much that I don't think I can live up to my own standards for this kind of program. This issue is apparently something I currently need to work on. I either better get to be a better musician or get over my perfectionist tendencies when it comes to the topic. I will have to report back about my progress in the future.

 I wrote in a previous post about singing a karaoke song at an event at the Stroke Recovery Association of Manitoba. That incident was very powerful for me in terms of mental and emotional health. The song I picked from the list of choices was the Beetles song, Blackbird. I was really scared to sing publically but I did it and felt so brave. When I finished there was no missing that I had an impact on the other people there. At first I thought they didn't like my singing or that the song was a bit too much. No, what happened is I had hit on a common emotion and wish for the group. It was what brought us together. We were all longing for the freedom of  having our broken wings fly again. We wanted our broken eyes to see again. To be free.
Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life- You were only waiting for this moment to arise
Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see
All your life- You were only waiting for this moment to be free
The power of music. 
Please note
 I was unable to find copyright info for the pictures this time. If there is a problem please let me know and I will gladly give credit or remove the pictures.
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