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What Is Music In Caregiving Anyway?

I think that music and caregiving are a natural fit for each other. In fact, this whole website is based around two main ideas.

#1. Music is great!

Who doesn’t love music? Sure, maybe you don’t like to sing, and maybe you don’t like rap or opera, but you’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t have at least one song that gets them smiling or tapping their toes. Why is this so?

  • Music is a central part of our cultural experience, no matter your age, ability, background, or illness.
  • Music is an inherently social activity, and it’s something we can all share.
  • Music is intimately connected to our memories and personal stories. When we share music, we’re sharing our lives.
  • Music is flexible – it can get us moving, or it can calm us down. It can make us smile, and it can hold our sorrow.
  • Music is multi-sensory. It can stand alone, or it can be the perfect complement to a meal, a dance, a piece of artwork, or a warm embrace.
  • Music provides framework, both in time and by establishing emotional and cultural touchpoints.

I’m guessing that you cannot imagine a life without music. You probably listen to it everyday, on purpose or not. Music is great – no question about it.

#2. Caregiving is Musical!

Okay, so maybe that concept is a little more foreign, but hear me out:

  • Caregiving happens over time. It’s different from a sculpture in a museum or a framed family photo in the hallway. Caregiving is a relationship, waxing and waning, deepening and broadening, all the time.
  • Caregiving involves improvisation – listening and responding in real time. People’s needs change daily, and you have to listen and respond, just like a gospel soloist responds to the choir.
  • Caregiving involves practice and planning, too! The skills you have took time to develop, and you always approach your care recipient with at least some idea of what you will do for them. The longer you are a caregiver, the less deliberate planning you have to do.
  • Caregiving has it highs and lows. There are days that sound like this and some that sound like this. (They’re all beautiful in the end, though, right?)
  • Caregiving can be intimate at times, and over-the-top grand at times, too. The musical analogy: solo cello vs. Madonna in concert. The caregiving analogy: praying at someone’s bedside vs. the annual Christmas gala complete with presents, Santa Claus, and a chocolate fountain.

Caregiving is musical. Perhaps all human interactions are, to some extent, but I think caregiving is especially so. Contrast your caregiving relationship with the relationship someone might have with an MRI machine, or a pain pill, or their family car. You can offer presence, intentionality, and flexibility. This is musical.

Music in Caregiving Means…

Using music intentionally as part of the caregiving relationship and scope of practice* you already have

Allowing the caregiving relationship to inform the music, creative interactions, and activities you choose

Drawing wisdom from music and other forms of art

Nurturing your relationships with your care recipients to become more musical, more beautiful

* Scope of practice is a fancy term for the things you are qualified to do within your professional role. Nurses do different things than doctors; occupational therapists do different things than activity directors; music therapists do different things than volunteers, etc.

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