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Returning to Work in Long-Term Care: Reflections of a Certified Music Therapist

We are feeling very grateful here at Miya Music Therapy that several of our community partners in senior living facilities are beginning to have us back on-site. This means that we can once again provide services to the residents who benefit so immensely from music therapy - we are THRILLED (to say the least)!

Certified Music Therapists, Robin Soper, MTA, has recently returned back to one of our community partner sites. This site is a long-term care facility that Robin serves 3 days per week. Below, Robin shares her thoughts on what it has been like to return back to work.


"It has been very exciting to see the residents (and staff, the staff are very happy!) light up when they see me walk up to them for the first time in many months with my guitar in hand. Many residents are able to express how isolating Covid has been for them and how wonderful it is to have someone to talk to and connect with through music.

It has been hard staying home and thinking about the residents I work with and wondering how they have been doing. Upon returning, I have found that while many residents have been coping quite well, some have experienced cognitive decline, losses in their own lives, or have become more anxious with all of the uncertainty around the pandemic. It feels so rewarding to be able to be an active part of the team that is helping them through these particularly tough times.

Since returning, I have observed that there is a a lot more willingness on the residents' part to make choices independently. Perhaps this is because it has been so long since their choices and sense of autonomy has been limited due to precautions during the pandemic. During a group session, one resident who usually doesn’t speak much at all due to his cognitive decline, said “Why did you stop playing?” when there was a pause in the music. This was such an exciting moment for a couple of reasons. One was because it was a remarkable expression for a resident who is generally unresponsive, and the other was because it made me reflect on how I really had stopped coming and providing music therapy for so long and how so much had stopped for the residents.

Of course, with returning to work, there are many precautions and protocols that we are abiding by to ensure the safety of residents and staff. For example, we are currently not having the residents use any instruments during sessions. This means that I, as the music therapist, need to get creative! I have been using much more body percussion, which is something that I didn't do a whole lot of before. I'm finding that the residents respond very well to this and that it helps them to connect with the rhythm and their bodies in a tangible way. I have also been mindful to plan for more breathing breaks throughout the session since there is more emphasis on singing with the lack of instruments. I find that these breathing breaks are another great way for the residents to stay connected and in-tune with their bodies.

Residents continue to social distance which means bringing them together socially through music is more important than ever. Many residents use the small group sessions to not only share in music-making together, but to also reflect on their collective feelings about what living through a pandemic is like in long-term care.

I am so grateful to be back, to provide a safe space for the residents to express and connect with one another, and to work with a phenomenal long-term care team!"


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