Piano Therapy in Care Homes
Do you have a piano in your care home? If you have one, is it situated where someone could sit and play it? How do you use it – as a static piece of furniture to be visually appealing, as a shelf to put things on, or as a therapeutic cost-free way of entertaining and engaging care home residents?!
(If you don’t have one, it’s possible to obtain a second-hand one at low cost. Please read on for the benefits of having one.)
Many of us have tinkered with pianos from time-to-time. Some of us were encouraged to have lessons as children, some have helped our own children to learn and others have always had the desire to play, but have never quite got around to it and maybe didn’t have access to a piano. Either way, the piano is the type of instrument that everyone can have a go at – regardless of age or ability, and most people find it a pleasure to listen to.
It’s correct that a piano in a care home environment can be a visually attractive piece of furniture and may remind some residents of home, but it can also be used in so many other ways to give pleasure and therapeutic benefit to people.
Piano Activities In Care Homes
The piano can be played by one person or two people, and it can be used for personal enjoyment, or for group therapy, or for a full-blown concert by a musician or concert group.
Do you know if any of your staff can play? Do you know if any of your residents are musical? It’s possible that a relation of a resident may play the piano. If so, would they be willing to play occasionally when they come to visit? They don’t have to be a professional concert pianist to give their relative or other residents pleasure.
Rather than just playing a tune, if you had one person who knew their way around a piano, you could have an afternoon of simple piano activities such as a ‘Name That Tune’ quiz. (If you’re not familiar with that TV programme, ask your residents and I’m sure some of them will be able to tell you about it!)
There are lots of pianists who go into care homes to engage with residents. If you have the budget for it, it's definitely worth the investment. If you don't have a piano, there are some musicians who can bring their own instrument.
Over the years, I’ve witnessed the faces of many elderly people light up when a piano is played. They not only enjoy the sound, but the ‘live’ aspect gives something visual too, which isn’t there when listening to the radio or a CD.
Some care home residents have also spoken to me and said that they used to play and have now lost their confidence, or can no longer play due to arthritis in their hands. But hearing the instrument reminds them of their past and how much they enjoyed playing, and the relationships they formed with others through music and dancing.
Aside from enjoyment, there’s also the therapeutic side to the piano - and music in general. Playing the piano or watching the piano being played stimulates the mind, inspires emotions, exercises the brain and assists with long-term memory.
Benefits of Having a Piano in a Care Home
- It is therapeutic for sufferers of dementia who may feel emotionally isolated.
- It stimulates the mind for players and listeners.
- It can alleviate stress for players and listeners.
- It improves co-ordination of players.
- It’s fun to listen to, fun to observe and fun to play – particularly if two people play duets.
- It allows the player to express emotion.
- It assists with long-term memory for players and listeners.
- Players and listeners can also sing along which is another form of therapy.
- It can be used alone, for one-to-one lessons or sessions or for group activities.
- It is a good source of entertainment for players and listeners.
- Music is a universal language that brings people together.
- It’s an aesthetically pleasing piece of furniture.
N.B. Of course, it’s important to show respect to other residents. Not every person will want to listen to someone playing the piano – especially if it’s not played well! So specific times could be arranged for piano playing.
Click this link to watch a very talented lady who was suffering from Alzheimer’s perform. http://youtu.be/p_615Y1tfv8
Click this link to watch a care home resident amusing himself and those around him with the piano… http://youtu.be/1xj6Vw76BV8
There are several ways to introduce music to your care home. If you would like suggestions or names of charities, please e-mail Heather McWilliams.
Blog written by: Heather McWilliams, Musician and Marketing Manager of Cairn Technology Ltd.
Need advice on music for care homes?
Call Heather McWilliams on: 0845 226 0185