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16 Dec 2020

Thank you for the music

Music therapy sessions encourage beautiful moments of connection and expression

After a successful music therapy pilot programme in 2019, the Foundation was thrilled to receive a grant from the Charles Rupert Stead Charitable Trust which enabled us to work with Raukatauri Music Therapy Centre this year to expand our music therapy services.

The grant provided for a Raukatauri Registered Music Therapist, a student Music Therapist and a Dance Movement Therapy student to run small group and individual sessions with clients attending our Anchorage and Lavender Cottage dementia day centres, and to work with residents in the Ivan Ward care centre, including the Brian Wells House memory support unit, at Selwyn Village.   

While dementia is a degenerative disease, international research has found that music therapy can retrieve communication and cognitive and emotional capabilities which contribute to meaningful social connection. Music therapy can play an instrumental role in dementia treatment from its initial stages, when patients and families are struggling to come to terms with the diagnosis, through to late-stage treatment, since music aptitude and appreciation are two of the last remaining abilities in dementia patients.

In their interaction with Selwyn residents and day centre clients, Raukatauri staff have been using the internationally developed Music Therapy Engagement Scale for Dementia to track people’s progress. While their work is in its early stages, therapists’ data collection in the months prior to and then in between the COVID-19 lockdowns showed strong results, with participants demonstrating measurable improvements in the assessment domains of Relatedness through Music, Communication, Emotional Response and Overall Responsiveness. Despite the significant disruptions to the programme due to COVID-19, music therapy participants were able to maintain their progress throughout the year and rebounded quickly from the skill regression that came during the country’s initial lockdown.

The therapists were also able to document beautiful moments of connection and expression through music, such as when a previously reserved and anxious lady led the group in singing Pokare Kare Ana, when a gentleman with no recollection of being a musician was able to pick up a ukulele and strum a tune to the delight of his fellow group members, and when a talented Māori musician and previously fluent Te Reo speaker was able to share waiata from the region of his childhood.   



A music therapy session in progress at Lavender Cottage

The Selwyn Foundation’s Community Programmes Manager, Heather Whineray, says: ‘We’re delighted to have entered this partnership with the Raukatauri Music Therapy Centre and to have been able to offer this stimulating, engaging and inspirational form of therapy within our specialist memory support care centres.

‘There’s clear evidence that music therapy is a key component in the promotion of mental and physical health for adults with memory loss. It has the power to improve a person’s memory recall and can also lead to positive emotional changes and improved mood. It promotes physical movement and activity in participants, as well as increased opportunities for communication and social engagement. Our clients enjoyed it immensely during our pilot programme last year, so we’re pleased to have been able to achieve similar benefits for a wider group of our clients and residents in 2020.’

Raukatauri’s registered music therapists are also able to provide individual music therapy sessions for older adults at the organisation’s various centres or in people’s homes or rest home. If you have a loved one who would benefit from the stimulation and engagement of working with a music therapist, visit the Raukatauri website at www.rmtc.org.nz for more details, or contact them at info@rmtc.org.nz.

(Abridged from an original article published in the Raukatauri Music Therapy Centre ‘Espressivo’ e-newsletter, November 2020)