About the SeniorAdvisor.com 2014 In-Home Innovation Scholarship: We started the scholarship program to bring awareness of the unique benefits and challenges of in-home caregiving for seniors to younger generations. The questions posed by the scholarship encouraged our nation’s future caregivers to present solutions for improving home care in the United States. College-aged students were required to answer one of the three essay topics below and provide a short bio as part of their scholarship application. Read the winning essays here.

How can your major of study improve the lives of seniors receiving in-home care services?

Essay response by Matthew Cotton

Many Seniors receive in-home care because they have impaired memory, preventing them from doing tasks on their own. Fortunately, the field of music can do a number of things to help with the physical and mental difficulties that come with memory conditions, especially Alzheimer’s Disease. According to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, music can be of help even in the latest stages of degenerative memory diseases. The use of music therapy can encourage something as big as physical movement and memory recall, or it can work in small ways, like changing someone’s mood for the better when they hear and remember their favorite song.

Achieving these therapeutic effects could be as simple as a caretaker playing a familiar song during the usual daily care routine, and getting someone with weak motor skills to move to the music or even just tap their foot. For memory improvement, an activity like remembering the lyrics of a song or singing back a simple melody could be done daily. Often, we associate songs with the time, places, and people around us when we heard it. Many times, music therapists have helped people with Alzheimer’s remember a series of memories just with a song. The actions might be simple, but the results can be quite powerful over time. Music therapy works so well with in-home care because it can be incorporated into the already existing routines of a caretaker, and activities can easily be done in between the events of the day.

Utilizing musical instruments can be a great way of enhancing in-home care services whether it be for one-on-one care, or assisted living. This type of service could be a once a week lesson or group class with an instructor. In these classes, Seniors can develop skills on an easily accessible instrument like the piano. When learning how to play a musical instrument, you develop very fine motor and memory skills that lead to strong muscle memory. For some, practice on a musical instrument could bridge the gap between the physical and mental obstacles brought on by memory diseases as they connect mental processes with corresponding physical actions. On an instrument like piano, it is easy to teach and learn slowly, then build progressively, a great strategy for those who face challenges mentally and physically and for those who like to learn at a slower pace.

For those who are in good health, learning an instrument could provide a fun, enriching experience that has the potential to grow into a group activity for assisted living communities. Acquiring instruments for a large group can be difficult, but many of the same activities can be done with the voice in a choir setting. This could also be innovative for Nursing Homes, which are commonly, but not accurately portrayed as boring “old folks homes.” One of the best things about making music together is getting to be a part of something larger than yourself. In doing this, Seniors can still feel the therapeutic effects of making music while also knowing that they are expanding their horizons and learning at the same time.

About Matthew

Matthew is studying Instrumental Music Education at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois.

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