Music Therapy Can Calm ICU Patients - A Personal Perspective

Hello All!

This blog is a little bit different than the others you have read thus far. I am Jake Heil, the Owner of The Music Barn, and I wanted to write this blog to tell you a personal story. Read along, offer your feedback or own stories in the comments section, and share on social media to help spread this story.

My grandmother, Dolores Lewandowski, passed away last week. This is, of course, a painful loss for all her family and friends. She had a very large family and was truly loved and appreciated by everyone who had the pleasure of meeting her. In thinking back to my recent memories with her, I came across one memory of music helping her in the ICU, and I wanted to share that here.

"Grammy" had been in the hospital since Mid-July when she had passed. She was able to go home for roughly one week before her unfortunate passing. As happens with many elderly when sick and in the hospital, she struggled with delirium. For a long period of time she was very confused and often inconsolably upset. She would cry in bed, utterly unaware of her surroundings. Oftentimes she would be pleading for help from her parents, sister, or others who had passed long ago.

She was at some points inconsolable with medicine, talking, love, etc. But we found moments when she was soothed by music!

"Jailhouse Rock” by Elvis Presley. Elvis was the only one that could calm her down from screaming or crying. We played Jailhouse Rock on repeat, and everyone joined as she sang along and shimmed her shoulders in her attempt to dance in her bed. Grammy also wiggled her toes, bopped her head, and smiled from ear to ear. During her bouts of delirium she didn't recognize who we were. However, she knew exactly who Elvis was.

This story, while personal, is not unique. There are countless stories of music helping patients who are in critical care. While the long-term effects of music therapy have not yet been studied enough to understand fully, music can bring back memories and put a smile on the patient's face... something that is incredibly valuable.

The idea of music helping older patients that are either delusional or have dementia goes way back into history, back to Aristotle and Plato. Music therapy, as an idea, has been around for over 2,000 years. Music theory, as a discipline, is relatively new. In fact, The American Music Therapy Association was only recently created in 1998.

Music Therapy today can go farther than ever before, in large part due to the development of technology in the music industry. Spotify has done many great things for the music industry, and it has revolutionized music therapy as well. Imagine if Aristotle and Plato could stream a sick patient's favorite song.

In thinking about how music helped my "Grammy," even so briefly, I wanted to do a little digging about how music can help bring back memories. I stumbled across the Music and Memory organization, which does admirable work to put iPods in the hands of dementia patients and trains their caregivers on how to best administer their treatment.

I do not have a degree in Music Therapy, nor do I represent any organization in Music Therapy. I am simply a lover of music, and someone who has seen the effect music can have with my own eyes.

Music transports me to moments in the past. I can listen to songs that bring me back to my childhood. I can listen to music that puts me by the pool, or songs that can bring back memories of those that have passed. Music has the same effect on patients struggling with delirium or dementia, and music had the same impact on my grandmother.

Music Therapy is a wonderful tool and something that we should all pay a little more attention to. My grandmother was never able to make it to a Music Barn event, however, in this moment I was still able to share my love of music with her one more time. In memory of my grandmother, Dolores Lewandowski, The Music Barn will donate one dollar (up to $150) for every share of this article on Facebook to the Music and Memory Organization. We ask that you share your stories below and consider donating as well.

Sincerely Yours,

Jake Heil


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