Elderhood: Continuing to Grow Amidst the Losses
Getting older can be a difficult experience. Some degree of loss is 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
It can be challenging to adapt to, and make peace with, the changes that come as a part of getting older.
Challenges For Caregivers
Caregivers of older adults also face challenges. The risk of burnout is high. Caregivers may feel strong feelings of guilt, anger, resentment, depression, anxiety, or grief. In caring for the person, 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
At the same time, old age can be a time for profound growth. The process of aging invites a person to:
- rediscover who they are
- find new ways for making meaning and identifying life purpose
- grow spiritually or transpersonally
You’re not alone
If you’re a concerned caregiver 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 some ways as we age, it is still possible to maintain a high quality of life that provides one with dignity and respect. What quality of life looks like will be different for a person at the different phases of life, but it is possible to maintain throughout life. There are healthy, engaging, non-pharmacological ways of coping with the more uncomfortable aspects of aging.
Aging Unlike Any Other Generation
Older adults today are experiencing aging in a way that is unlike any other generation. Today’s older adults generally have access to 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?
The length of therapy varies by person. This can be due to a variety of factors. Typically, there is a period of few months where weekly therapy sessions are necessary, but then it can taper off to every two weeks, to once a month, to no longer even being necessary. Some people may benefit with an occasional check-in. It all depends on a person’s circumstances. In general, the more complicated and complex a person’s situation is, the more time that may be needed. The music therapy and counseling services offered by SoundWell Music Therapy are an hour-long and cost $90 an hour when provided in Longmont, or $100 when provided outside of Longmont.
My loved one or I am home-bound. Can you come to us?
Yes, we can come to clients if they live in Boulder County. This includes going to long-term care communities.
How could music make therapy more effective for my loved one or me?
Music can “amplify” the insights and skills gained from therapy. This is because music affects us in many different ways. We are neurologically and physiologically hard-wired to respond to music. Music can help us relax, reduce feelings of anxiety, or relieve feelings of depression. As well, music can connect us to unrecognized thoughts and feelings, while also serving as a means of communication and self-expression. Music can stimulate memories, which can help us create meaning from our lives. Furthermore, music is accessible to everyone, regardless of age or ability. We can create new ways of being by engaging with music.
How is music therapy different from taking music lessons?
Music therapy is different from music lessons because each has a different goal or focus. In therapy, the focus is on achieving some benefit or relief in an area of being that has been negatively affecting one’s ability to function in life. Music within the context of therapy can be thought of as a tool and a vehicle for personal exploration, growth, and development.
Whereas the focus of music lessons is on the development of musical skills. A person may find music lessons to be therapeutic, but the goal of lessons is musical development, not therapeutic benefit. We do provide adapted music lessons to those who may benefit from an adapted approach. See our Studio Policy for more information.
My loved one or I am not musical, can music therapy still be beneficial?
Musical knowledge or ability isn’t necessary because, in therapy, music is made accessible through making accommodations as are necessary and possible. As well, the work in therapy is oriented on the process, as opposed to creating a final product.
Benefits of Mental Health music therapy for older adults
WELL OLDER ADULTS
Challenge: A woman 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.
We would switch to vocalizing when her thoughts seemed to get too “heady” and disconnected from her feelings. These vocalizations involved either a relevant phrase that seemed to reflect her present experience 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: A non-verbal woman in the late stages of dementia was referred to me.
Treatment Plan/Results: After speaking with her family about her musical background and preferences, I identified a few songs that I thought she would respond to in some way. Positioning myself in a way that ensured she could see and hear me, 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 a song he had told me she had enjoyed. 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 WWII veteran was receiving hospice treatment 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 of choosing songs so that it wouldn’t be taxing on him to make his preferences known.
Treatment Plan/Results: Due to the realities of end-of-life care, every session was different. When I would observe him to be anxious, I would sing the songs he wanted to hear, matching his breathing with the music and watching his facial affect. During these times, 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 him and their childhood. At other times they would share with me the conflicting emotions they were feeling towards him 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 unique and complex needs that come with aging. Included with this is an understanding of the needs and challenges of family caregivers. With that, I’m a big proponent of aging well through creative approaches. I’m also a class leader of the Powerful Tools for Caregivers course, a 6-week, evidence-based, psychoeducational group offered for free through Area Associations of Aging around the United States.
ok. I’m convinced. What do I need to do next?
Contact Faith to schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation if you think that you or an older adult you know 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.