A lifetime of changes, with Opportunities for growth at any age
Getting older can be a difficult experience for someone who makes it into old age. Some forms of loss are inevitable with the aging process. As we get older, we are bound to experience:
- The loss of significant relationships
- The loss of physical or cognitive abilities
- The loss of independence
- The loss of certain roles
For Family Caregivers
Family caregivers of older adults also face challenges. The risk of burnout is high. The person may also feel strong feelings of guilt, anger, resentment, depression, anxiety, or grief. In caring for their loved one, they may struggle with:
- the change in relationship: new roles, different dynamics
- the physical and emotional demands of providing care
- managing other family conflicts that may arise
- financial concerns
But aging doesn’t have to be a negative thing
At the same time, old age can be a time for profound growth. The process of aging invites us to:
- rediscover who we are
- find new ways for making meaning and identifying life purpose
- grow spiritually or transpersonally
You’re not alone
If yo’re the concerned loved one of an older adult, know that you aren’t alone. And if you’re an older adult looking for a different kind of aging experience, know that you are also not alone. While we all decline in ways with age, it is still possible to maintain a high quality of life that provides us with respect and dignity. What quality of life looks like will be different at different stages of the life spectrum, but it is possible. As well, there are healthy, engaging, non-pharmacological ways for coping with the more uncomfortable aspects of aging.
Aging unlike any other generation
Older adults today are experiencing aging unlike any other generation. With increased life expectancy and medical advancements, today’s older adults have access to many more resources that will allow them to maintain a high quality of life. At the same time, many people are living with chronic health conditions and are coming to older adulthood at a challenging and uncertain time in our society. This can bring up a whole slew of strong, uncomfortable feelings and concerns.
I’m beginning to see the benefit of therapy, but…
How often would we meet, and how much does it cost?
My loved one or I am home-bound. Can you come to us?
How could music make therapy more effective for my loved one or me?
How is music therapy different from taking music lessons?
My loved one or I am not musical, is there still benefit from music therapy?
The benefits of mental health music therapy and counseling for older adults
WELL OLDER ADULTS
Challenge: F recently retired from a profession in which not many women worked. She was struggling with who she was as a woman and the choices she made in her life. She was also confronting her mortality and worried about the direction her elder years would take.
Treatment Plan/Results: We explored her life through musical life review where she selected songs that were meaningful to her from different phases of her life. Following each song, we would talk about the circumstances of her life at the time, and the gifts that she gained from those experiences. This helped her gain a greater perspective and appreciation for the things she’d accomplished in her life.
When her thoughts seemed to get too “heady” and disconnected from her feelings, we would switch to vocalizing either a relevant phrase that seemed to reflect her experience, turning it into a chant or mantra, or through toning a single vowel on a single pitch. These experiences helped her feel her underlying feelings, grieve the paths not taken, embrace who she is, and come to recognize the ways in which she can continue to contribute and give back to others.
Challenge: Working individually with C, a woman who was in the late stages of dementia and who no longer spoke, I was told by her family that she enjoyed gospel music.
Treatment Plan/Results: During every visit I would position myself near her and face her to ensure that she could hear me and the guitar. I regularly sang familiar gospel songs to which she would appear to smile, tap her foot or fingers to the beat, or mouth along to the words. One time when her son was there, I began singing “Old Rugged Cross.” Soon she started singing along, and at the end of the song, she was able to share a brief memory related to the song. Her son was so happy to hear his mother’s voice again.
Challenge: A was a WWII veteran. He was receiving hospice care due to being in the end stages of COPD. He had a history of alcoholism, and his relationship with his children was strained as a result. The disease made it difficult for him to speak for long periods of time, but he made it clear that he was struggling with his experiences of seeing combat during the war. He regularly wanted to hear songs from that time in his life, and I’d provide him with different ways for choosing songs so that it wouldn’t be taxing on him to make his preferences known.
Treatment Plan/Results: When he appeared to be anxious, I would perform live the songs he wanted to hear, matching his breathing with the music and watching his facial affect. During the music, he would appear to become more relaxed and his breathing would deepen. Sometimes tears would come to his eyes. Other times when he seemed to have more energy, I would play recordings of the Big Band songs he requested. During these experiences he would smile and tap his toes. Sometimes he had enough energy to verbalize his experience and share his memories.
Family members were welcome to join sessions if they were around. When they would attend, they were inspired by the music to share mutually fond memories of A and their family. They would also share privately with me the conflicting emotions they were feeling towards A and his terminal prognosis. I would empathize and validate their experience, reassuring them that their unique individual grieving process was normal.
My experience as a therapist working with older adults
With over 8 years of experience working with older adults and in end-of-life care, I’m sensitive to the uniquely complex needs that come with aging, including the needs and experiences of family caregivers. With that, I’m a big proponent of creative approaches to aging as well as possible. I’m also a class leader of the Powerful Tools for Caregivers course, a 6-week, evidence-based, psychoeducational group offered for free through the Area Associations of Aging in Boulder, Weld, and Larimer Counties.
ok. I’m convinced. What do i need to do next?
Contact us to schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation if you think that you or your loved one could benefit from the music therapy and counseling services offered by SoundWell Music Therapy. We’ll be happy to arrange a time when we can talk more about your particular situation and to schedule an initial session.