100 musicians to lift patients' spirits at the National Rehabilitation Hospital
Next week the wards and corridors of the National Rehabilitation Hospital will come alive with the sound of music.
More than 100 musicians, all volunteers, will pour into the hospital to play their part in a special music festival for patients and staff.
Sopranos, drummers, ballroom dancers,professional orchestra musicians and students, and Irish folk band The Fureys will play sessions.
The aim is to bring another form of therapy to the patients- many of whom cannot walk or talk-and it has a profound effect on their motivational levels,explains senior music therapist Rebecca O’Connor.
“We take some musicians to the bedsides of patients who can’t come out of the ward.
“It’ll be everything from guitar lessons to aid memory; karaoke and open mic to encourage speech and socialising; as well as having musicians come in and perform.”
“It’s about using music therapy to re-energise, and it has a brilliant effect on not just patients but staff as well.”
“Last year during Music Week for example, staff said that patients were more motivated in afternoon sessions after the musical interludes at lunch.”
Patients at the NRH include adults and children who are recovering from brain injury caused by trauma, a stroke, or other neurological conditions; or spinal injury.
Among the team of professionals working to rehabilitate these patients are music therapists, who describe themselves as the 'glue' to bind all the therapies (physiotherapy, occupational therapy etc) together.
“The way music therapy works here, we basically draw from a growing body of evidence of exactly how people respond to music,” Rebecca explains.
“Whether it’s playing the flute with someone’s breathing to help them be calm or using music as a motivator, I work with all the other therapists and it’s about using music therapy to help with all the other therapists.”
“It’s all about communication and movement, and then the emotional aspect of it. If a teenager is in a wheelchair, we might say ‘let’s write a song about how you’re feeling’... and use music as a tool.”
During Music Week, musicians will hand over their instruments give patients the chance to join in and play, or make their own music.
Patients can take guitar lessons which can aid memory training and dexterity; karaoke and open mic sessions which might encourage speech, movement and socializing; and music workshops to help stimulate their creativity.
The music therapy service, which has been running at the hospital for eight years, has many proven benefits.
“At the hospital, we’re coming to the end of a two-year research project, where we looked at a patient’s disorder of consciousness – someone who might be very poorly aroused. Using a music-based assessment tool alongside all the other tools to diagnose their level of awareness, we found that people will respond to sound when they might not respond to something else.”
“With a patient who has an acquired brain injury or a spinal cord injury, maybe they’re having to relearn how to communicate and talk again. And music therapy is about offering an alternative medium of communication.”
“I’ve always seen people respond. Nobody doesn’t respond to music therapy”
“You can just hear a song and remember when you heard it, and a lot of research is showing the effect of that music has on the heart and the brain.”
“Auditory modality is often the most responsive modality”
“It enhances recovery because it allows everyone to access the patient.”
This year, catering staff will participate in Music Week by serving upmusic-themed menus. During the soprano performance, Italian food will be served for instance.
Music Week, organised by therapeutic recreational specialist Stuart McKeever is now in its third year and runs from June 3-10 at the NRH Dun Laoghaire.
If you’d like to make a donation to the National Rehabilitation Hospital and help fund initiatives like Music Week, you can do so by visiting the NRH Foundation’s My Charity page here