Monday, August 3, 2009

Art and Music Help Patients Heal

by Helene King

Paint, guitars and geraniums are just a few of the office supplies that LifeBridge Health therapists use to improve the quality of life for residents and patients.

“Therapeutic recreation is very hands-on,” says Jamilah Bashir, M.S., C.T.R.S., manager of Therapeutic Recreation at Courtland Gardens. “We give our participants a purpose in life, a way to express themselves that impacts them every day. It is the most rewarding career that I can think of.”

For example, during some art sessions, Courtland Gardens residents make jewelry. This gives them the opportunity to strengthen their hand-eye coordination as they string beads, focus on completing tasks, and wear the bracelets and necklaces that they’ve made.

Visual arts are only one aspect of recreational therapy. At Levindale, David Parker, a board-certified music therapist, both plays instruments for groups and goes to the bedsides of people who are not mobile.

“Music is a great way to reconnect people with special memories,” says David. “Songs spark remembrances about everything from their childhoods to romances to jobs. Residents often sing or hum a tune as I play my guitar. A remarkable time for me was when a non-talking dementia patient sang a song.”

Music therapy can lessen agitation, as well as stimulate people in comas and those with traumatic brain injuries.

Adults aren’t the only ones who benefit from expressive therapy at LifeBridge Health. “It’s involved in everything we do to enhance the social and psychological well-being of our patients,” explains Kristen Mylotte, C.C.L.S., a certified child life specialist in Sinai’s Pediatrics department.

“If a child is going through chemotherapy, he can design a hat to cover his head. If a little girl has diabetes, she can decorate a doll used to show her how to be at ease with her condition,” continues Kristen. The most heartwarming part of her job is to watch “her” children grow into healthy adults.

Seeing plants thrive is key for people who take part in horticulture therapy. “Nurturing another living thing is often the medicine that participants in one of Levindale’s programs need to regain their confidence,” says Dee McGuire, H.T.R. “Cultivating plants lets them know that they’re in control of some areas of their lives.”

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