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Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Healing Power of Music

The Healing Power of Music This excellent article appeared online today! Check it out!

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Music Therapy Brings Comfort at End of Life

THURSDAY, Dec. 31 (HealthDay News) -- Music therapy is used to help Alzheimer's patients remember and autistic children calm down. Now, a University of Alabama student is using her voice and guitar to comfort dying patients in hospice. Families gathered around the bedside of a dying loved one often request hymns, such as "Amazing Grace," while others ask for favorite classic rock songs, such as songs by the Beatles, that evoke happier moments, said Sarah Pitts, a senior majoring in music therapy. "I want to be with people when they need someone to provide them with some type of comfort," Pitts said. She recently played for an older woman who was just hours from death. Gradually, the woman's breathing began to slow. Her family gathered around to say their goodbyes. "The family later said hearing the songs she liked made things a little bit better." Music therapy is about more than playing pleasant music, said Dena Register, an associate professor of music therapy at the University of Kansas who has also worked in hospice. Instead, it's aimed at improving a patient's quality of life, using music as the medium. "We are not teaching people how to play the guitar or the piano, or singing just to entertain," Register said. "There is always a more targeted goal. In hospice care, it can be any number of things: pain management, to repair relationships or to help a patient express their wishes to family and friends." An increasing body of research is providing evidence of the power of music. A 2007 study found music therapy dramatically improved the mental and physical condition of patients receiving palliative care. In the study, some 200 patients aged 24 to 87 with chronic or advanced illnesses, such as cancer, pain disorders, AIDS and sickle cell disease, received music therapy sessions, in which they were able to choose the type of music they wanted to hear played on a keyboard. Physical and psychological tests done before and after the sessions found that music therapy decreased patient anxiety, pain and shortness of breath. More than 80 percent of the patients said the music improved their mood, as well as that of their family members, according to the study by researchers at the Cleveland Music School Settlement. Pitts was motivated to reach out to patients at Hospice of West Alabama after her brother learned he was facing a potentially fatal heart defect and needed immediate surgery. "While I was in that waiting room, I felt like I needed somebody there to play a song," Pitts said. "It's simple but it could be a huge thing for a family dealing with this type of death or a trauma." Her mentor, Andrea Cevasco, an assistant professor of music at the University of Alabama, was impressed with Pitts' willingness to tackle such a challenging and potentially emotionally wrought assignment. "As an undergrad myself, I never pictured myself doing any kind of hospice work," Cevasco said. "Personally, I wasn't ready to deal with death and dying as an 18- to 22-year-old." Music therapy can be used in many settings and for all age groups, from premature babies to children with disabilities to seniors with dementia. Certified music therapists, who have training in music, psychology, physiology and other disciplines, are called on to help with a wide range of physical, emotional and social issues. Music therapists are often versed in music from many genres to match the preferences of patients, Register said. Children with cerebral palsy, for example, might play the drums to encourage them to stretch and use muscles in a way that might seem painful during physical therapy, Cevasco said. Singing can be used with special education students to help them learn to vocalize sounds properly or to teach social skills such as taking turns. For dementia patients, music from their earlier years may be used to help orient them in time and evoke pleasant memories, Pitts said. "Music therapy can be fun and take away the monotony of whatever it is we are trying to accomplish," Pitts said. "Music provides a certain emotional and even a physical response. For people in hospice, it can give them a moment to come together as a family, to remember a wonderful time and to have one positive thing come out of that person dying."

Monday, November 16, 2009

7 tips for using music with Alzheimer's Patients

1. Determine what decade (approximately) would have been their "courting years." I usually define this as the time they were 15-25 years old and were dating, falling in love, getting married and so forth. 2. Go to Google or any search engine, or any university music library and find some of the popular music for that particular decade. For example of I Google "top 40 hits of the 1930's" I get things like "Over the Rainbow," "Begin the Beguine," "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" and lots more. I get not only the names, but links to those on iTunes, Rhapsody and other sites. I also have a whole CD of this music on my website. 3. Once you have found the music for your patient or loved one, you play it for them during a quiet time during the early part of the day...before or immediately after lunch are very good times. 4. If possible, play the music for them live on a piano, guitar, autoharp or other such instrument. Live music is always more powerful than recorded. If not possible, a CD or MP3 is also good. 5. Begin to interact with the patient as you listen. sitting across from them, taking their hands, making eye contact and singing along to the music is very beneficial. 6. If possible, get the patient up out of chair or bed and move to the music with them. You don't have to formally dance, but get them walking or stepping to the rhythms of the music. 7. Finally, repeat these same 5 or 6 familiar songs with them several times a day for at least a week. The next week you can take a different 5 or 6 songs. You will begin to see the benefits almost immediately. Our study showed that patients who had an individualized 30-minute music session each day: *slept better *ate better * were more sociable during the day * were less combative during the day and *required less sleeping or calming medications Is it worth the trouble? Absolutely! I have seen Alzheimer's patients literally "come to life again" during their music session. Give it a try and let me know if I can help you in any way.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Dr. Cash plays for Seniors at Eden Terrace!

This little video was make a few years ago when I was visiting my mother at Eden Terrace in Spartanburg. You'll see me at the piano and my mother is one who is singing beautifully! We all enjoyed singing spirituals so much that day and especially "Swing Low Sweet Chariot," I love to speak at Assisted Living Centers and Retirement homes and have several different programs I can do for seniors! Check it out at

Monday, August 10, 2009

Jazz musician claims that music has kept him young!

Most people, in their lifetime, have a career that lasts for 20 or 30 years. Few are blessed to do the same thing they love for their whole life. Eddie Milburn, 81, of Lakeland is one of the lucky ones. He has been playing music for more than 70 of those 81 years. Because of his love of music and constant drive to practice music every day and play in different musical groups around Polk County, Milburn is my "Ageless Aging" feature for August. Through "Ageless Aging," I profile, both in print and on video, outstanding senior citizens in our area. Milburn was born in Greensburg, Pa., on Aug. 3, 1928. While he was in fifth grade, proprietors of the local music store visited his school to start the school band. "Someone played the clarinet, and I said, 'I love that sound.'" Shortly after, he started playing the clarinet and saxophone. Although he studied clarinet with a teacher through college, he has never taken a saxophone lesson. "The sax I just picked up and started playing." By age 15, he was playing professionally at night. "I got a lot of gigs, but my principal wanted to throw me out of school 'cause I could never get up for morning classes," Milburn said from the music room of his Lakeland home. "Music makes me feel good, all the time." After high school, Milburn joined the U.S. Army as a member of the 24th Infantry Band in Japan. After the Army, he used his GI Bill to attend the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. He graduated with a degree in clarinet and music education. After several years teaching around the country, he moved to Rochester, N.Y., to work in several businesses. Finally a music education position became available in the Rush-Hearietta, N.Y., school system, where he taught band until he retired in 1984. He moved to Lakeland in 1994 with his second wife Dorothy. He has three children by his first wife, who died in 1975. Milburn has played with some of the biggest names in music, including Mel Torme, Bob Hope, Bobby Vinton, Sammy Kaye, Billy Eckstein, Guy Lombardo and many others. Milburn was working as a musician the first weekend he lived in Lakeland when his friend Bob Boyd, who had retired to Florida ahead him, called. "He said, did you bring your instruments with you? Of course I brought my instruments with me," Milburn told him. "He said be at the so-and-so hotel in Kissimmee this Friday and Saturday night. So I had an immediate connection and started playing down here." At 81, he has started to slow down and not travel as much for musical gigs. He stills plays regularly with the Lakeland Jazz Orchestra, the Polk State College Over 55 Show Band and the Bartow Community Band. He also spent several years in the Imperial Symphony. "I just had a checkup recently with my primary doctor and heart specialist. They tell me to keep doing what I'm doing. I had open heart surgery 18 years ago . . . I'm good till 90, my doctor told me." Milburn say music helps him deal with his senior years. "It does for me what I don't want to face, and that's my own mortality. (Music) keeps me going, (and) keeps my mind going."

Friday, July 24, 2009

We love the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

If you have an Irish heritage and you love music, then you're going to love this short video of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir! This is a beautiful Irish hymn called "The King of Love My Shepherd Is" and features not only the choir but also two flutes and a harp! What a beautiful, peaceful performance to start this week-end out with!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Impromptu concert at the Mayo Clinic

This clip is priceless! This lovely couple, married for 62 years, are playing on a beautiful grand piano in the lobby of the Mayo Clinic...a wonderful example of the healing power of music. I'd love to hear your comments!