not the same as music therapy, but it is an awesome way to help with easing caregiving routines, encouraging exercise, and sparking interesting discussions. Here are the five playlists that I think every caregiver should have on their iPod: 1. Music for waking up and getting ready These are the tunes that will help to encourage you and your loved one to get out of bed and started with morning routines. You might choose songs that are upbeat and cheery to set a good mood for the day to come. Bonus points for choosing songs that talk about the morning and sunlight. Try these:

  • Oh, What A Beautiful Morning
  • When The Red, Red Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin’ Along
  • You Are My Sunshine
  • Morning Has Broken
2. Music for exercise/physical activity These are the up-tempo tunes that you just can’t help but dance to. Choose songs that get toes tapping and heads bopping. Use this music on your daily walk, or spend time dancing with your loved one at home. Try these:
  • Flying Home
  • I’m Walkin’
  • Back In The Saddle Again
  • Gentle On My Mind
3. Music for no-fail fun times These are the silly songs, or the ones that inspire storytelling. Your picks for this playlist will definitely depend on your loved one’s preferences and your shared experiences. Here are some of my favorites:
  • Mairzy Doats
  • Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini
  • Take Me Out to the Ballgame
  • (How Much Is) That Doggie In The Window
4. Music for calming down This is the time to bring out the moderate and slow-tempo ballads. If you want music specifically to help with relaxation and encouraging sleep on the physiological level (based on the principle of entrainment), look for songs that are at a slow, even tempo. Some good choices:
  • Twilight Time
  • Over The Rainbow
  • Air On A G String – J.S. Bach
  • Selections from Liquid Mind by Chuck Wild
5. Music for contemplation and renewal This is the list especially for you, the caregiver, although you may want to share these with your loved one, too. These are the songs that help you get into (or return to) the frame of mind for caring for your loved one and yourself. It’s easy to get stuck in the minutiae of day-to-day tasks and minor crises and to let these things wear you down and burn you out. You might choose songs from your faith tradition or songs that remind you of the beauty and good things in life. They can be slow and meditative or upbeat and encouraging. It’s vital that you have music that supports your own musical being, so choose the ones that you like, whether your care recipient loves them too or not. Here are a few of my favorite songs for my own self-care:
  • Blessed Assurance
  • What A Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong
  • Extraordinary Machine – Fiona Apple
  • Lemon Tree – The Ditty Bops
Of course, there is no substitute for listening to lots of music together with your care recipient to find out what works best for the both of you. Half the fun is in the exploration! What are your favorite songs for these playlists? Any suggested playlists to add here? Leave your suggestions in the comments section below!]]>


  1. Ashley Lundquist on April 29, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    Great list of songs! I need to add all of those!

    • soundscapemusictherapy on May 1, 2012 at 11:50 am

      Yes! Do it!

  2. music2spark on April 30, 2012 at 10:22 am

    Another timely, helpful post Rachelle! I would add to the exercise list “Hey Good Lookin'”. It works well for arm curls, little kicks, and a host of other movements.

    • soundscapemusictherapy on April 30, 2012 at 11:23 am

      That’s a good one, too, JoAnn!

  3. Allison Andrews, PsyD on May 3, 2012 at 7:47 pm

    Hi Rachelle, I am not a music therapist but I totally agree that music is so helpful as we all all move though the tasks of our day. I love to dance around my kitchen with the kids as we (ok well I) clean up. Thanks for some great suggestions!

    • soundscapemusictherapy on May 3, 2012 at 8:19 pm

      Hi Allison,

      Yes, as I’m sure happens in your profession, too, much of my job is helping people to remember things they already know about how to take care of themselves and others. Sometimes it just takes a nudge to get someone to dance around the kitchen and feel really great doing it, right? Thanks for your comment!

  4. Ann Becker-Schutte (@DrBeckerSchutte) on May 6, 2012 at 9:28 pm


    One of the things I appreciate about this post (besides all of the fun song suggestions) was the way that your categories remind caregivers that it is okay to take time for each of these activities or stages. That you can savor the morning, enjoy moving, take time to laugh, create space for reflection, and relax–all important stuff to remember when you’ve got the overwhelming responsibilities of caregiving.


    • soundscapemusictherapy on May 6, 2012 at 10:30 pm

      That’s a great observation, Ann! I love the word savor, and it’s definitely important to savor the good moments throughout the day. Sometimes music can provide the structure – or impetus – for those times of enjoyment.

  5. Carolyn Stone on May 9, 2012 at 11:11 am

    Hi Rachelle,
    You are helping me to understand more about music therapy. It’s very interesting. Music is a big part of our family life, tho we don’t all listen to the same stuff. When my son was a teen and going through hard times, he got into heavy metal in a big way. Friends would express concern, but his therapist and I understood that it was helping him express his anger.
    I often find an old hymn going through my mind when I’m pulling myself together after a stressful day. It starts, “Come thou fount of every blessing,” and it reminds me that there are blessings.
    Obviously, you’ve struck a chord with me!

    • soundscapemusictherapy on May 9, 2012 at 11:38 am

      Those are perfect examples, Carolyn! There is so much we do with music for self-care without really thinking about it – when we are even just a little more intentional about how we listen to music, it can make a HUGE difference!

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