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Turn On the Radio: Top 9 tips for the radio in caregiving

If you care for people who are aging or who have disabilities, whether you’re a family caregiver, an activity director, a nurse, a CNA, an administrator, or a music therapist, this post is for you! As a caregiver, you’re probably interested in helping your care receiver access music from time to time, and whether they like Beethoven or Beyonce, the radio is probably the cheapest and easiest way to access music, especially if you don’t have an easy way to get on the internet. Even though many people are using the radio differently now than in years past, as I discussed here and here, the radio is an important tool for any caregiver to have.

Below are my top 9 tips for using the radio in caregiving. These apply whether you are caring for a loved one at home or for people in residential facilities.

Here’s what to DO:

  • DO make sure that your care receiver’s radio is within their reach. That may involve moving some furniture or buying a radio with a longer power cord. Or, you could buy a radio that comes with a remote control.
  • DO make adaptations to help your care receiver operate the radio. Adapting the controls may be as simple as putting a sticker on the on/off button or building up a bigger button to push with whatever materials you have on hand.

    Simply adding labels can make the radio easier for some people to use.

  • DO ask for permission before changing the station, and choose one of that resident’s preferred stations.
  • DO post a list of preferred stations so that other caregivers can make sure to put on the music your loved one enjoys. If the radio has buttons for preset stations, go ahead and set those favorite stations, too.*
  • DO find out if the care receiver has favorite programs to listen to, and post those with the list of favorite stations. One popular choice: A Prairie Home Companion, with Garrison Keillor, usually broadcast on your local public radion station.

Here’s what NOT to do:

  • DON’T play the radio all the time. We all need silence sometimes, and constant music can be overstimulating and cause agitation.
  • DON’T turn on the radio and the TV at the same time. I’m sure that YOU know better than to do this, but I’ve walked into too many rooms in nursing homes where both roommates have a radio and TV on. Talk about overstimulating! Anyway, I hearby give you permission to turn off one or two of those devices when you see this same situation.
  • DON’T run extension cords under rugs or across rooms to plug in the radio. Those are potential fire and tripping hazards.
  • DON’T despair if you can’t find the music your loved one likes on the radio. My next post will cover other non-radio options for accessing the music you love. Stay tuned!
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