by Ann P. Gervin, MT-BC with
HealthSouth Lakeshore Rehabilitation Hospital
Being a music therapist at HealthSouth Lakeshore Rehabilitation Hospital in Homewood, AL is rewarding and challenging experience. I am a member of an interdisciplinary team of highly trained professionals (Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy and Music Therapy) who strive daily to help our patients regain their independence. The individuals served, suffer from traumatic brain injuries (TBI), cerebrovascular accidents (CVA), or from degenerative diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis or Parkinson’s. In each case, independence has been compromised .
When meeting someone for the first time, I find it helpful to explain music therapy is not entertainment. However, it is the use of instruments and elements of music (rhythm, dynamics, melody, etc.), that will be used to help them reach non-music goals. Examples of those goals range from improving physical abilities (use of arms, hands, and fingers), cognitive abilities (memory, impulse control, focused attention), and the ability to communicate.
Recently, I had the opportunity to work with Mr. C., who had a stroke (CVA) which left him with a weak right side, poor coordination, and unsteady gait. In our individual sessions, the ukulele was used to increase awareness of his right side as he strummed. The sound and tactile sensation of his thumb on the strings increased his awareness and use of his hand and that side of his body.
Prior to his CVA he played African drums as a leisure pursuit. This instrument was incorporated into other sessions. Initially, his lack of coordination caused safety issues as he hit the drum with too much force. By discharge, his coordination had improved, and he was thrilled to be able to safely play this instrument again.
A co-treatment opportunity arose when external auditory cues (Rhythmic Auditory Stimulation) were provided by my singing and playing an autoharp when he and his physical therapist worked on walking. A steady strum was provided with the instruction for him to take a step with each strum. In six sessions, he progressed from a walker to a large based quad cane, his walking was safer and more coordinated and the external cues were no longer need.
Mr. C’s examples show how music therapy techniques were applied in three different ways. In the end he went home with increased independence and the ability to resume his life.
HealthSouth Lakeshore Rehabilitation Hospital has a long tradition of superior care in physical and neurological rehabilitation. Through our interdisciplinary treatment approach we meet the needs of individuals entrusted to our care. Music therapy is an important component in the patient’s day. This and much more is happening here at HealthSouth Lakeshore Rehabilitation Hospital.