‘Music is such a wonderful, rewarding therapy for residents’

One day last winter when France Jalbert was visiting Forest Hill, she decided to play a ukulele to see how the residents she works with would react. They loved it.

Jalbert is an outreach worker for Total Communication Environment (TCE), a nonprofit organization providing supports and services to people with multiple disabilities and special communication needs living in long-term care homes and other settings.

She is often at the Kanata long-term care home working with residents who have special needs. On this particular day, life enrichment aide Shannon Lynch heard Jalbert playing the ukulele and saw the positive impact it was having on residents.

Lynch decided to bring some of the residents she works with to join Jalbert and the residents she works with to form a program, called Ukulele Sing Along with France.

Since then, Jalbert and Lynch have hosted the program twice per week.

“Music is such a wonderful, rewarding therapy for residents, so I asked France if she would consider teaming up to do a program and she said she would. It has really taken off from there,” Lynch tells The OMNIway.

Lynch brought a collection of old instruments tucked away in a storage area at the home and handed them out to residents. Residents used tambourines and other instruments to follow the rhythm of Jalbert’s ukulele.

Jalbert and Lynch say the music program benefits both residents with special needs and those who are living with cognitive impairment. Being able to express themselves through music also helps ease anxiety and agitation for residents, they say.

“(The music) captivates residents’ attention,” Jalbert says. “It’s a multisensory activity where everybody can participate. When (the residents) are playing along to music, they will be successful. The music will also sometimes bring out emotions they have that they can’t express.

“Everything about this program is positive.”

The program is even having a positive impact on staff members. Lynch says nurses and personal support workers sometimes stop by because they find the program is a stress reliever for them.

“People will often stop me in the hall and ask, ‘Is it music day?’ They get a lot of joy from this, too,” Lynch says.

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