Spotlight: Nilda Garcia, Sagrado Corazón

Nilda Garcia and Sagrado Corazón: HealthStar’s Spanish-Speaking Support Service

Spanish-speaking Clients of HealthStar are very familiar with Nilda Garcia. She is the warm and caring voice of the Sagrado Corazón (Sacred Heart) program for Latino Clients of HealthStar. For 10 years, Nilda has been putting her “special touch” on everything that she does, from event planning to office organization and troubleshooting IT problems. With her recent promotion to Program Manager of Sagrado Corazón, Nilda is ready for action with renewed energy and focus. Nilda, the HealthStar Spotlight is on you!

A little history

Nilda has been with HealthStar since 2008, when she started as an Assistant Program Coordinator in HealthStar’s basement suite on Bloomington and 21st. Then, in 2009, Nilda helped open the West St. Paul office – the original home of Sagrado Corazón. But don’t get too comfortable, Nilda! Just a year later, HealthStar moved from the location on 21st into another building on Franklin Ave in Minneapolis. The West St. Paul office merged into the new location as well.

Nilda made the Franklin office her new home as an Assistant Program Development Liaison. She worked in the community and continued as primary contact for Sagrado Corazón. During the next 2 years, Nilda helped HealthStar achieve Medicare certification and had a front-row seat for the beginning of HealthStar’s Mental Health initiative. In 2010, Nilda watched Corporate move from Maplewood to a new building in North St. Paul. Then, In 2017, the Franklin office moved to a new location in Inver Grove Heights. Once again, Nilda unpacked and organized a new space. This new location is beautiful, with big windows and lots of wild turkeys outside! It’s a great place to re-focus and re-energize. Throughout all these changes, Nilda’s positive attitude and sense of humor kept her office mates in good spirits!

 Nilda, how do you do it all?

So, what makes Nilda tick? How can she weather all these changes and still be a constant source of positive energy? A secret about Nilda – she has superpowers. Lots of them. I’ll tell you about some, but you must promise not to say that I told you. Nilda doesn’t like to be the center of attention and won’t want everyone talking about her special abilities.

Superpower #1

Nilda’s first superpower is that she is amazing with event planning. She loves to get people together and celebrate! Nilda’s smile and laugh bring light and joy to the group. She is a great cook and loves to try new foods. Nilda says that her favorite thing about HealthStar is the family atmosphere. Working here is like working at a family gathering, because you’re surrounded by happy people who care about each other. Nilda fondly remembers when a special Client celebrated her 100th birthday last year – with Nilda at the party, of course! Nilda especially loves planning events for Sagrado Corazón, because she gets to use one of her other superpowers – the Latina superpower!

Superpower #2

Nilda’s Latina superpower comes from her family in South Texas, on the border of Mexico. Nilda loves to celebrate her Latina roots with the Sagrado Corazón team. She is always willing to help teach a little Spanish on the side, which has been one of my personal favorite things about working with Nilda. She is a very lenient Spanish teacher, unlike Cristina Hernandez, Corporate and Twin Cities Skilled Admin – also a superpowered Latina, but much stricter in the Spanish-speaking department! A little-known fact is that Nilda is close friends with Cristina’s mother, Marisol. Get them together, and I can only imagine the cooking and laughing!

Superpower #3

The last superpower that I will reveal about Nilda is that she is a multi-talented and very organized superheroine. She processes payroll, troubleshoots technology issues, and answers phones in two languages (backing up the lovely and talented Barbara Edwards at IGH), all while drinking her French vanilla coffee and running around in her high heels. Nilda is a positive force at the Inver Grove office, keeping things fun and exciting for the team. She has a fabulous sense of humor and is not afraid to pull pranks to get everyone in a good mood. She once dressed up the CPR dummy and scared RN Sue Schaber by leaving it in the bathroom overnight. Boy, was Sue surprised when she came in early thinking she had the office to herself!

Nilda says that her greatest accomplishment at HealthStar is learning to walk in another person’s shoes. She appreciates learning with her team and is grateful for the opportunities that HealthStar offers for personal and professional growth. She knows that she has great things ahead with Sagrado Corazón, and is looking forward to putting renewed focus and energy into the program. We hope you’ll check out what Sagrado Corazón has to offer, and learn more about our awesome team!

24ECC program: Building the HealthStar Family

HealthStar’s 24ECC program is different than other Corporate “touchy-feely” programs.

Many companies search for ways to increase cultural competency and employee engagement, but very few truly succeed. With the 24ECC program, HealthStar has nailed it.

Developing the 24ECC program

In 2009, HealthStar invited clients and community members to participate in focus groups tasked with identifying the qualities of good caregivers. These result: a long list of ideal characteristics for caregivers, providing great insight into HealthStar’s culturally diverse client base.

HealthStar then narrowed the focus group’s list to twenty-four crucial elements. The new 24 Expressions of Company Culture, or ECCs, fit nicely within the categories of HealthStar’s top four core values: Servant Leadership, Empathy, Altruism, and Integrity. Almost 10-years later, and the 24ECC program still lives on!

24ECCs in action

Each month, 24ECC trainers identify one of the 24ECC values to highlight. They design activities that help staff to discuss and dig deeper into the importance and impact of the chosen value. Through these activities and discussions, we gain a better understanding of the ideals that our Clients identified. We also examine the cultural differences in how values are expressed or perceived. The same values are often interpreted very differently depending on cultural background!

What the 24ECCs do for our team

One of the unexpected benefits of the 24ECCs is that they provide a tool to better understand and communicate with team members. The 24ECC program is a constant reminder that even though someone may do things differently, that doesn’t make it wrong! We learn balance – if you do too much of one value, you might end up not representing other values which are equally important. In conflict, the 24ECCs guide us to consider each other’s point of view without judging or jumping to conclusions. We use the 24ECCs as consistent language to express ourselves, and to discuss and work through concerns.

But for me, the best part is getting together once a month to get to know each other through a new 24ECC activity. I love the creative ideas that our 24ECC planners come up with! 24ECC Bingo, collage making, skits, and gift baskets – and sometimes a 24ECC snack. When we build a team that communicates and has fun together, we also develop something more than just a place where people go to complete tasks.

What 24ECC “Work Love” can do for you

HealthStar is more than a group of people who work together. We are a team that supports each other and truly cares about each other.  We are a work family, spread across three states. HealthStar people get excited to see each other at quarterly meetings – it’s like family coming to visit, including the cooking, the hugging, and the chatting.

Best of all, when HealthStar needs to get a project done, we all jump in and do what we can. We appreciate and capitalize on the things that make us different, because we know that’s part of building a great team! By fostering this Work Love relationship in our offices, we automatically extend the same level of care to our Clients. It’s not always easy, but with the 24ECCs, we have the foundation to build on. It is a great base to support great care!

Check out our website for more information about this program and how it helps us provide the best possible care!

 

What It’s Like to Work in Home Care

I have been working at HealthStar for more than 9 years. I didn’t set out to work here that long, but I’m happy that it has turned out this way. I am part of a great team – we are so close it feels like a family. I enjoy working with some of the most caring and compassionate people around. We have a lot of fun in the office; we do all kinds of different activities from egg hunts to potlucks to office bingo. But best of all, I know that every day when I come to work, I can help someone who is in direct contact with our Clients. In my small way, through that connection, I’m helping someone remain in the community and receive quality care in the comfort of his or her own home.

On my most challenging and frustrating days, it is still fabulous to feel that all my hard work is helping someone who really needs and appreciates that help. Working here keeps my days in perspective – the challenges that I might face are trivial when compared to the challenges faced by someone who needs help just getting out of bed or making it to the store. I love to hear stories from our branch offices about the successes they experience with Clients and field staff; it is so touching to learn the different ways that we become like extended family, especially to long-term Clients. The knowledge that I can keep this all moving, and that I am a critical piece of the support team for these Clients, keeps me going through the toughest days! I never want to be the one who prevents someone from providing the best possible care to our Clients!

The best part about working at HealthStar is that I am surrounded by truly caring staff, who are motivated by Client successes, and who understand and appreciate what others around them are doing to accomplish the same goals. There is very little drama, which is extremely rare in an office environment! We are all focused on the task at hand, making sure that all the foundation work is in place so that our direct care staff can provide great care!

Our 24ECC program gives us all a common language when we feel we are not seeing eye to eye, or when days get hectic. We are good at supporting each other; we learn about each other and find ways to show our teammates that we care about them. It’s very common to hear people talking about their frustrations openly, both personal and work-related, or to hear teams discussing what could be done to improve processes and communication. We say a lot of Thank You’s, and we even try to sit together at lunch, so that we can take a few minutes together out of work mode, just to appreciate each other’s company.

I love it that when I walk in the door at work, I feel I’m in a safe place. I can rely on the support of others when I have a hard day, and I can lend my own strength and compassion when I see someone struggling. It is an awesome place to learn, grow, and even sometimes play, and I am pleased to say that I am still here, learning something new many times each day!

Want to join the HealthStar Home Health team? Check out our current job openings and apply today!

-Beth Taylor
It Manager, HealthStar Home Health

Working for HealthStar Home Health Could Be the Greatest Experience of Your Life!

Do you have a passion for health and wellness and have a loving personality with a caring touch? If your answer is yes, HealthStar Home Health wants you to be part of our team. The catch? It just might be the greatest experience of your life!

Hear what some of our employees have to say about working for HealthStar Home Health.

According to a recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, healthcare jobs and industries are expected to have the fastest employment growth and will add the most jobs between 2014 and 2024. HealthStar Home Health recognizes that as the senior population ages, more and more Minnesota families are tasked with caring for their aging parents as well as caring for their own family. This age group, commonly referred to as the “sandwich” generation, is quickly becoming overwhelmed when their daily job, family commitments and additional duties when caring for their aging parents are all factored in. This type of situation is creating the fast-growing need for various healthcare jobs, including personal care assistants.

In 2015, HealthStar had the opportunity to work with PBS to identify a family who would be willing to be filmed for a documentary they were working on. The PBS documentary “Caring for Mom & Dad” explores the emotional, health and financial challenges that many family caregivers face each day. Take a moment to watch the PBS documentary to understand what our nation is facing with this crisis in caregiving that is upon us.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/caringformomanddad/watch/

Home health care encompasses a wide range of health care services that can be provided in the home for illness, injury, or daily care. Understanding how overwhelming and difficult it can be for care for an aging loved one and in an effort to help out the family caregiver, our home health professionals provide unparalleled public health care services ranging from Alzheimer’s and dementia care, behavioral nursing, and home health care nursing and our newest program Behavioral Health Home. One unique care program we offer, the Alzheimer’s Whisperer program, takes an effective approach to support those affected by Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias and their family. Our clients also benefit from respite care for daily needs such as bathing and dressing, chores around the home, transportation, and companionship.

HealthStar Home Health serves individuals and health care professionals in a number of cities throughout Minnesota, including the Duluth and Bemidji areas, as well as Arizona and New Mexico. We are a culturally sensitive home health care team that provides services to individuals who are traditionally underserved.

Experience something great – be a part of the HealthStar Home Health family! HealthStar Home Health is a mission-driven team of professionals deeply rooted in the personal and cultural values of the communities we serve. We provide unparalleled public health care services, while at the same time respecting the unique needs of our culturally diverse clientele through stewardship and a genuine desire to serve those in our community.

Interested in being part of the fastest employment growing industry? HealthStar Home Health offers employment opportunities in locations in the Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota area, as well as northern Minnesota such as Duluth and Bemidji, Arizona and New Mexico. Our company is a group of professionals driven by our mission, and personal, community and cultural values. Visit the Contact Us page of our website to find current open positions as well as an application for employment to complete and submit online.

Keeping Traditions Alive and Celebrating Different Cultures Through the Holidays

The holidays are upon us and with this time of year comes opportunity to spend time with family and friends, giving to those in need, and traditions rich with fond memories and cultural celebrations.

Minnesota is home to a diverse cultural population and HealthStar Home Health is proud to serve families in many of these cultures. We often see families passing on holiday traditions to the next generation. Here are some of the cultures we work with and a little about their traditions.

The Hmong New Year is a huge celebration in the Hmong community with many family members traveling to be part of the extravagant festivities. St. Paul, Minnesota plays host to the New Year celebration which typically lasts up to 5 days and includes sports tournaments, pageants, and other contests or forms of entertainment, along with feasts of delicious traditional Hmong food. Historically, the Hmong New Year was celebrated to give thanks to ancestors and spirits as well as to welcome a new beginning. Although there are no dress code requirements, many Hmong Americans choose to wear traditional Hmong clothing during this time. The Hmong New Year celebration typically occurs late November to early December, which is the end of the rice harvesting season when all their work is done and serves as a Thanksgiving holiday for the Hmong people.

Minneapolis and St. Paul are home to thriving Latino communities. According to the Minnesota Historical Society, Catholicism plays an important role in the daily lives of Latinos and many Latino homes include an altar for prayer with statues of saints. The parish church is the center of the Latino community. Some of Latin America’s most recognized traditions are associated with this time of year. Parents use this opportunity to develop their children’s cultural identity and spend time with family by sharing these holiday traditions. One important Mexican festival is the Las Posadas, which is a nine-day event commemorating the journey of Mary and Joseph before the birth of Jesus on Christmas day. Often, there are reenactments and processions at church or in their homes to celebrate this with their family and community.

The most popular Russian holiday is their New Year celebration, which leads into the Orthodox Christmas celebration. The Russian New Year holiday is traditionally a 5-day non-working holiday from January 1 through January 5. Traditionally there is a decorated New Year tree and the Russian children believe in the mythical Grandfather Frost. Much like Santa Claus, Grandfather Frost is a beloved character who wears a long blue or red coat with a matching hat, and carries gifts in a large sack on his back. Grandfather Frost also carries a magical staff that has the power to freeze everything around him. Many attend New Year’s parties where it is customary to dress up in costume and children memorize a poem or song to recite for Grandfather Frost in exchange for a small gift. There is plenty of traditional Russian food and drink to share with family and friends.

Pow Wows are a time to put aside differences and focus on celebrating life and traditions. The Ojibwe Native Americans celebrate many different traditions, but the most well-know may be the Pow Wow celebration. This is a time when they come together to celebrate their history and religion using various art forms, such as dance, music, and art. The drum is the main focus of the Pow Wow. Made of wood and hide, approximately three feet in diameter, its circular shape represents the circle of life. The drum is a very sacred object, made only for sacred use, and before the Pow Wow drum can be pounded or used in a ceremony it must be blessed by an elder. Thru the drum, the Ojibwe are reminded of their connection to Mother Earth. Selling or trading arts, feasting on traditional foods, song, and dance are all very important aspects of a Pow Wow.

HealthStar Home Health offers culturally-relevant services that address the unique needs of our Minnesota, Arizona and New Mexico populations. We promote independence and self-sufficiency by empowering patients and their families to be active participants in the provision of care. Using culturally-sensitive approaches, HealthStar Home Health offer our clients a wide variety of services in home health care, community based care, mental health, and personal care assistance with focused sensitivity to economic factors and health beliefs. Call HealthStar Home Health today at 651-633-7300 for more information or to schedule a no-charge consultation to discuss the many services we can customize to your needs.

Caring for Mom & Dad

Americans are living longer than ever before, and soon older adults will outnumber the young. Who will care for them when they are no longer able to care for themselves? With this aging population how will we adapt as a nation?

Recently, HealthStar Home Health had the opportunity to work with PBS to identify a family who would be willing to be filmed for a documentary they were working on. The PBS documentary “Caring for Mom & Dad” explores the emotional, health and financial challenges that many family caregivers face each day. We chose a family who has been a part of the HealthStar family since 2010 and exemplifies integrity, servant leadership, empathy and altruism.

Alicia and her mother Estella are proud members of a St. Paul Latino community. When Estella suffered a massive stroke following heart surgery, Alicia was forced into the role of full-time caregiver for her mother, basically overnight. Although considered informal caregivers by the government, nearly 1/2 of family caregivers perform medical services traditionally reserved for a nurse. Insurance may cover some expenses, but not everything so families are left with the added expenses to care for their parents. Family caregivers spend an average of $5500 on out-of-pocket costs per month, leaving them to face heavy burdens financially and emotionally.

“The Latino community is very close knit and our family is our nucleus. It is considered an honor and a source of pride to be there for our families during good and challenging times. When a family member is in need, particularly the elderly, we take care of our own. La familia es primero.”, said Nilda Garcia with HealthStar Home Health. She goes on to say “as a Latina, I have worked for HealthStar for almost 7 years and I am so proud that we are able to provide healthcare services while respecting the unique needs of our culturally diverse clientele. Seeing them happy is our most precious reward.”

Ana Diaz is a medical advocate with Payne-Phalen Elders who visits Latino caregivers and their families in their homes, including Alicia and Estella. She is known as the eyes and ears of the aging St. Paul community she serves and is considered a ‘geriatric angel’ to many. Ana helps working caregivers by taking their family members to their doctor appointments, along with being an advocate for them with the county, HMO’s and the nursing homes. “No matter what the chronic disease is, Latino caregivers are facing several unique challenges. Latino caregivers are often less aware of the services that are available in the community, this sometimes is due to a language barrier and sometimes due to their lack of knowledge of the services. Another significant challenge is that the Latino community is less likely to look for nursing home placement for their loved ones. These factors together can add up to an overwhelming role for caregivers” said Ana. Ana strongly believes “faith also plays a very important role. They will pray and believe that everything is going to be ok. While faith sustains people, they often could still benefit from some respite from their caregiving role and benefit from community supports!”

Take some time to watch the PBS documentary and see what our nation is facing with this crisis in caregiving that is upon us.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/caringformomanddad/watch/

Today, family caregivers provide 90% of the assistance, even while they struggle to balance careers and their own family. Caregiving averages 4 years. For an Alzheimer’s patient caregiving is 4-8 years and can last as long as 20 years. The rate of Alzheimer’s is expected to triple by the year 2050. That is a heavy load to carry and many struggle financially.

Since 1950, we have added more than a decade to the lifespan of Americans. But as the golden years span out, seniors 65+ suffer from multiple illnesses. Data from the 2014 U.S. Census Bureau show there are 76.4 million baby boomers who are all going to get old at the same time. We are about to have the largest older population we’ve ever had in the history of this country and they are people who want to live at home or independently in their communities, but there is no support infrastructure in place. We are a society that hasn’t adequately accounted for family caregiving work and now we are at a point given all these changes where that is simply not sustainable.

A Candid Conversation with HR

As a job seeker, imagine you had an opportunity to get into the heads of Human Resources (HR) professionals to figure out some Do’s and Don’ts that can help set you apart from the competition. At the Easter Job Transition Group on Tuesday, March 17, 2015, the room was packed and the stage was set for a candid conversation between HR and job seekers.

The panel representing small, medium and large companies, with over seventy years of professional experience combined, consisted of:

• Donna Smith, HealthStar Home Health
• JeanAnn Nelson Trombley
• Maureen Wheaton, Cambria

These leading ladies had an engaging, interactive and at times, humorous conversation about their experiences in the recruiting and on boarding process. No topic was off limits as they addressed topics as ageism, what HR is really looking for in interviews and organizational culture fit.

Some of the top Do’s and Don’ts for Job Seekers that came out of the conversation are listed below:

“Having been in job search, I understand the journey that job seekers experience. At the same time, as a leader I also understand what is like to sit on the other side of the table. Bringing HR professionals and job seekers together was a way of sharing, understanding and appreciating the challenges & rewards on both sides. I hope the panelist and attendees took away words of wisdom or nuggets of valuable information that will make the job search process more successful for all involved, “stated Xaulanda Simmonds-Emmanuel, Volunteer Coordinator.

Interested in a career with HealthStar Home Health? Check out our current employment opportunities.

-Xaulanda Simmonds-Emmanuel
HealthStar Home Health, Branch Manager

Connecting With Our Community

Reaching out and giving back was the theme of the day at the Minneapolis Urban League (MUL)’s Employer of the Day event held on Wednesday, February 25, 2015. In collaboration with MUL’s Business Employment & Solutions Training (BEST) program, HealthStar’s South Minneapolis team took the opportunity to connect with other employers, participants and the community.


BEST offer training as Health Unit Coordinator, Certified Nursing Assistant, Health Information Technology and other trades, while also enhancing the participant’s soft skills and emotional intelligence. “Building & maintaining those bridges to our community are essential to better understand potential HealthStar team members and best serve our clients. Recruiting within the communities we serve allows us to connect with BEST graduates and pair them with our clients in a meaningful way,” stated Xaulanda Simmonds-Emmanuel, Branch Manager, HealthStar Home Health.

The collaboration with BEST provides a perfect opportunity to recruit individuals that have successfully completed the program. Focused on such qualities as Integrity, Responsibility, Commitment to Quality, Flexibility/Adaptability and other viable contributions, the intent is directly aligned with HealthStar’s Expressions of Corporate Culture. Further, it offers a gateway to opportunity for graduates to become gainfully employed and connect to the community by offering quality home health services.

-Xaulanda Simmonds-Emmanuel
Branch Manager, HealthStar Home Health.

Knowing the Person’s Story

When we are working with those with Alzheimer’s it is important to know their stories! What is their history? Where did they live? Who comprised their family? What are some of their most powerful memories? What did they do for a living? And what were their hobbies? If you’re not getting the picture, you might wonder why all of this matters.

It does because the person with Alzheimer’s increasingly lives in the past so that the “old memories” are new again. This applies to so many things in their reality. For instance, a gentleman I remember would become very agitated when it snowed and fret that the animals would freeze if they weren’t protected. At first the family thought that Dad was having a psychotic episode since he had never talked about animals before. Then one day his children discovered a very old picture of their dad when he was a little boy. It was probably taken in the 1920s and showed their dad standing in a field surrounded by cattle. This was right before the Great Depression, when his family lost their farm and the gentlemen lost his dad. He would have been a great grandfather to the current children,who knew nothing about these losses. Their dad had never talked about what he’d been through, but now he was reliving it. Once the family realized what was happening, they would reassure their father whenever there was bad weather that every animal was locked safely in the barn. He continued to ask about the animals when it snowed, but he was able to relax after hearing they were safe.

Another Another gentleman had been a wood carver all his life and now lived in North Carolina with his son and daughter-in-law. They were concerned about his failing memory and had him evaluated by a geriatric neurologist, who diagnosed the man with Alzheimer’s at Stage 4-5 on the FAST scale. The family worried that it was no longer safe for Dad to carve word, but the doctor assured them that wood carving was second nature to their father. They just needed to watch him and they would know when this hobby was no longer safe for him. They did over the course of several years as his Alzheimer’s continued to grow worse. Finally, they decided assisted living was the safest place for him.

When he was admitted to the facility, the daughter-in-law told the staff how important carving was to Dad and supplied him with bars of Ivory soap and plastic picnic knives every week. The old man would sit in a chair with a trash can between his knees, lean forward, and carve the Ivory soap. Did he carve the beautiful woodland figurines that he had once carved? No, but he continued to carve. His family knew how important this was to their father’s well-being, so they made it happen in a very safe way.

The stories of our patients are like valuable, buried treasures. When caregivers can unlock the past and dig up these stories, it is a transforming experience for the story teller and the listener, too.

About the Author: Verna Benner Carson
P.D., PMHCNS-BC, is president of C&V Senior Care Specialists and Associate Professor of Nursing at Towson University in Baltimore, MD. Dr Carson can be reached at vcars10@verizon.net

The Magic of Music in Alzheimer’s Disease

Have you ever heard a song playing on the radio and found yourself transported to a time and place from the past? Have you ever had a song stir your deepest emotions – and bring back memories as if those experiences were happening in the present? Have you ever been comforted, stimulated, saddened, elated, or experienced some other powerful emotion just because of a song? Most of us have had such experiences and the power of the “remembering” elicited by music can catch us “off guard” when the song evokes emotionally charged memories. Music has the same power with individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and knowing this provides one more tool to help family, as well as paid caregivers, to manage challenging behaviors, to reach someone who appears to be lost in the disease, to calm an agitated individual, to encourage cooperation in activities such as bathing that might otherwise be met with resistance. Some research even indicates that music can help restore lost memories and bring those afflicted with the disease back into the present – if only for a short period of time.

These facts about the power of music seem to fly in the face f the progressive loss of memories associated with Alzheimer’s disease, starting with the most recent and steadily erasing long-ago memories going back in time. However, it is important to know that memories of music are “wired” differently in the brain than other memories; it is almost as if the brain is made to contain music. Whereas short-term memories are stored in the hippocampus, music is stored every­ where in the brain, and music with all of its emotional meanings continues to be accessible to people with Alzheimer’s. Even when they have lost the ability to speak, many can still sing!

What a powerful idea this is! If caregivers fully appreciated the significance of music they would use it all the time to facilitate many activities of daily living. Caregivers have shared that they engage the person with Alzheimer’s in singing while the individual is bathing and dressing. Nurses sometimes use music while they are performing a painful procedure such as dressing a wound or drawing blood. They know that music can distract, soothe, and engage the person with Alzheimer’s disease.

Thirty-two Alzheimer’s patients participated in a research study conducted by Brandon Ally, an assistant professor at Boston University who examined the power of music and found that these subjects were able to learn more lyrics. when the words were set to music than when they were spoken. Ally believes that the results of the study suggest that those with Alzheimer’s could be helped to remember things that are both necessary to their independence and well-being. For instance,creating a short ditty about taking medications or the importance of brushing one’s teeth might help those with Alzheimer’s to maintain the abilities to perform these necessary skills. This was the first study to demonstrate that using music can help people with Alzheimer’s to learn new information through the use of music.

In a famous YouTube video, Man In Nursing Home Reacts To Hearing Music From His Era, we see Henry, a man who was almost totally unresponsive, begin to respond with sound, movement and facial animation when he uses an iPod programmed with “Henry’s music. “After the iPod is removed, Henry is not only quite spirited but totally involved in the ensuing conversation. He is able to discuss his favorite musician, Cab Calloway, and when asked “What is your favorite Cab Calloway song?” Henry begins to sing ‘Tl! be home for Christmas.” Not only is his speech perfectly clear, his face is expressive and he uses his hands in explaining the emotional power of music. The interviewer inquires of Henry “What does Cab Calloway’s music mean to you?” And Henry talks about what music does for him: that the good Lord changed him through music and made him a “holy man.” Henry’s transformation is nothing short of miraculous and raises questions about why music is not used in every home where someone with Alzheimer’s is cared for, in every assisted living facility and in every skilled nursing home.

Music should be a routine part of care. Not only does it bring joy to the person with this terrible disease, it allows for continuing connections between the caregiver and the person with Alzheimer’s. It diminishes the lonely isolation that is part of the disease when the afflicted person appears to be locked in a world that is isolated and isolating to others.

One more story about the power of music. A gentleman named Ben shared this story about his wife who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and was well into the middle stage when he placed her in a facility for care. Ben visited often and one of the techniques he used to stay connected to his wife and to make the visits pleasant and meaningful for both of them was to draw on his wife’s past history with music. She had sung for many years with the Sweet Adelines worldwide music group, and she retained her lovely singing voice despite the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease. Ben loaded music that his wife had sung throughout her years with the Sweet Adelines, he attached two sets of earphones – one set for his wife and one set for himself – and they would sing together. Music was a powerful connection between them that remained until his wife passed away.

Music is so important that we will revisit it again in other columns. The power of music to maintain connections, relationships , and joy in life can hardly be covered in one short column. More to come!

Reference:
1. Seligson, S, June 15, 2010 http://www.bu.edu/today/2010/music-boosts-memory-in-alzheimer%E2%80%99s/ Accessed July 8, 2012
2. Man In Nursing Home Reacts To Hearing Music From His Era (April 2012). (http:// www.yourube.com/watch?v=fyZQfOp73QM) www.youtube.com Accessed July 8, 2012

About the Author: Verna Benner Carson
P.D., PMHCNS-BC, is president of C&V Senior Care Specialists and Associate Professor of Nursing at Towson University in Baltimore, MD. Dr Carson can be reached at vcars10@verizon.net