Posted in Dementia, End-of-Life, Health & Music, Hospice, Medical

How Can Music Therapy Help Hospice Patients?

pink roses

Hospice provides patients with various services to address their medical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs. So, how can music therapy help?

Music therapy can:

  • Provide positive changes in mood and emotional states
  • Create emotional intimacy when families share musical experiences
  • Provide healthy emotional outlets
  • Facilitate reminiscence and life review
  • Offer diversion from physical pain and discomfort
  • Promote relaxation (anxiety and stress reduction)
  • Decrease agitation
  • Provide social interaction and sensory stimulation
  • Offer support during imminent death
Posted in Music Lesson, Music therapy

Music Making without Reading Notes

You can make nice music without reading notes!

1. Put stickers on piano keys just like the picture below.


2. Freely play these “red notes” to the play-along accompaniment I created: Trust me, it is going to sound wonderful because there are no right or wrong notes in this method.

Please feel free to leave comments/questions below. Happy playing 🙂

Posted in Dementia, End-of-Life, Health & Music, Hospice, Medical

A Quote about Music by Oliver Sacks, MD


Resource:  Noriko Nakamura, MT-BC, Pinterest Board “Quotes — Music”

Posted in Health & Music, Medical

Einstein & Music

Did you know Albert Einstein played music? He played the violin and piano. I am not saying that playing music makes everyone become like Einstein. But music appeared to be an important part of his life and intuition according to the following quotes and article (link).

“If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.” (The Foundation for Music Literacy, n.d. p.9)

“It occurred to me by intuition, and music was the driving force behind that intuition. My discovery was the result of musical perception.” (When asked about his theory of relativity) – (The Foundation for Music Literacy, n.d. p.9)

“He often told me that one of the most important things in his life was music. Whenever he felt he had come to the end of the road or into a difficult situation in his work, he would take refuge in music and that would usually resolve all his difficulties.” (quoted in interview with Bernard Mayor, in Whitrow, Einstein, p.21 as cited in The Foundation for Music Literacy, n.d. p.9).

Here is an interesting article about Einstein, music, creative thinking, and physics in “Psychology Today”.  I think you’ll enjoy it.


The Foundation for Music Literacy. (n.d.). How music can dramatically effect your child’s development and life time success: A summary of current scientific literature concerning music and the mind. Retrieved Aug. 16, 2013, from

Posted in Dementia, End-of-Life, Health & Music, Hospice, Medical

Music Therapy with Dementia (Video)

The following video (Music Therapy with Dementia) was created by the Canadian Music Therapy Trust Fund.

Many people with dementia come to life when you provide music that is appropriate for them.  This video shares beautiful moments occurred during a music therapy session.

Posted in Dementia, Health & Music, Medical

Are You Inspired by Henry?

(Please watch this video first…)

Are you inspired by Henry and ready to use music for your loved ones? Here are some tips from a board-certified music therapist:

Personalizing the musical selection for your loved one is very important. Look through your loved one’s musical collections (e.g. records/cassette tapes/CDs :)). People with Alzheimer’s disease tend to respond well to the music from their young adulthood and teenage years. They may also respond to the music from their childhood. If your loved one has/had strong faith, spiritual songs usually continue to be meaningful for them. Try to play different songs from your loved one’s collections and see how she/he responds.

Are you using headphones like Henry or an iPod docking speaker? I believe Henry lives in a nursing home, and headphones seem to work well for him (at least while he is sitting in his wheelchair). Using headphones definitely allows people to listen to their individualized music in shared spaces. But if your loved one and others like the same types of music or if you want to be part of the “musical awakening”, it’s good to listen to the music together. So, play the music on an iPod docking speaker! There are so many different kinds of iPod speakers, so you can pick one depending on your preference and budget. Sharing music and reminiscing together definitely facilitate interaction between you and your loved one.

Back to headphones… If you want to use headphones for your loved one who is confused, there are a few things that we need to consider. First, please make sure the volume is appropriate. You may also want to “lock” her/his iPod/MP3 player, so that your loved one does not accidentally turn the volume too high or too low. Listening to music at a high intensity level can cause ear damage and may trigger agitation. Also, let’s make sure that your loved one (who is confused) does not try to put an iPod in her/his mouth. I have never seen anyone doing this, but I have seen a patient who tried to put an egg shaker in his mouth (yes, it does look like a colored egg…).

Additionally, wearing headphones for a long period of time can be uncomfortable for many people. We especially need to pay close attention to those who cannot consciously remove their headphones on their own when they become uncomfortable. I think an iPod docking speaker is more appropriate for them. Also, there are interesting things called “Speaker Pillow” or “Pillow Speaker” on the market. I have never used any of these, so please let me know if you have used one!

My next blog is going to be about “How to Use Music in a Practical Way for People with Dementia”!

Posted in Medical

Strokes, Launguage, and Music by Dr. Oliver Sacks

Dr. Oliver Sacks is a neurologist, bestselling author, and professor of neurology and psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center. Dr. Sacks talks about the effects of music therapy in stroke patients:

Posted in Medical

Henry from the Documentary “Alive Inside”

This clip is from the documentary “Alive Inside”.  Henry seems depressed and does not respond to anything but to his favorite music. I see this type of response almost everyday in my music therapy practice. Enjoy!



Dr. Tomaino, music therapist, talks about the benefits of music:

Posted in Health & Music, Music therapy, Parkinson's disease

Abstract: a meta-analysis of the effects of music-based movement therapy in people with Parkinson’s disease

guitar blue

This link includes a meta-analysis of the effects of music-based movement therapy in people with Parkinson’s disease. Music-based interventions have tremendous impacts on these individuals. Happy reading!

Posted in Dementia, End-of-Life, Health & Music, Hospice, Medical, Music therapy

Tips for using music with your loved ones who have memory loss

Keyboard Keys Close Up

As a board-certified music therapist, I have been working with people who have dementia, including Alzheimer’s type, for almost 10 years.  Appropriate music can bring back memories and facilitate interaction.  Here are some tips for using music with your loved ones who have memory loss:

1. Even if you think you “can’t carry a tune in a bucket”, let’s sing.  Your voice is meaningful to your loved ones, so that’s all matters. But if you feel very uncomfortable singing alone, sing along with your loved one’s favorite CDs etc.

2. Use music that is from your loved one’s teenage years/young adulthood. People are emotionally charged during these times, so the music from these eras has lots of meanings to people. If your loved one has progressed memory loss, she/he may respond to the music from their childhood.

3. Repeat & repeat. I found that people with memory loss respond well to repetitive songs, such as “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree”.  Repetition helps the people join in the singing.  Even if they cannot join in the first line, they can usually join during the 2nd and 3rd lines.  If a song is not repetitive, you can repeat the 1st verse a few times rather than going to the 2nd and 3rd verses etc.

4. Slow down. Some people cannot sing at a fast tempo. I often need to slow down my singing, so that my clients can participate.  That’s one of the reasons that live music is better than pre-recorded music.  Live music is definitely flexible!

5. Usually people make brief comments after singing or listening to familiar songs (e.g., “That’s pretty.” & “My mother used to sing that song.”).  If your loved one does so, ask him/her simple questions that are related to his/her comments.  I had a client who did not remember anything about her family, so she thought that she was alone. She was very sad and lonely. But after singing a few familiar songs, she began talking about her family. This instantly changed her mood and affect. Reminiscing is a lot easier after using appropriate music.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions!

Reference: Clair, A. A. (1996). Therapeutic uses of music with older adults. Health Professions Press.