A Dose of Virtual Joy
By Seika Bishton, MusicWorx Intern
Do you have a loved one who may be experiencing loneliness due to being socially isolated for over a year? Through great efforts by music therapists at Resounding Joy, adults with dementia can receive virtual phone calls that provide a moment of Joy in their life.
The pandemic has impacted people young and old in some way. Specifically, folks in nursing homes or facilities, hospitals and independent living faced social isolation and loneliness. Visitations from families came to a halt, access to technology was limited and communication was difficult. As a result of COVID-19, isolation among older adults has increased significantly. More recently, family members have been allowed to visit loved ones but this is not true for all. Feeling isolated and lonely did not begin after the pandemic, nor will those feelings go away once society returns to a new normal. The United States has begun returning to a new normal by gradually lifting restrictions. However, the social and emotional scars of prolonged isolation remain.
The older adult population in the United States is rapidly growing. Today, over 46 million older adults are over the age of 65.
“In the U.S., approximately one-quarter of community-dwelling older adults are considered to be socially isolated, and 43% of them report feeling lonely.” (Wu, 2020)
Social isolation and limited visitation did not stop the work of music therapists and other healthcare professionals. During the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth quickly became the leading method of providing care to individuals. Telehealth.hhs.gov describes telehealth as, “the use of technology, telecommunication and electronic information to provide care.”
Benefits of telehealth:
- Limiting the spread of COVID-19
- Visiting individuals in the comfort of their own space to address specific health issues
- No mileage or commuting time required
- No wait times
- Physical distance is no obstacle to benefitting from services
Challenges with Telehealth
- Wi-fi and phone services are not available to everyone
- Privacy and security issues
- Lack of physical touch
- Technical capabilities of clinicians and patients
One of the main concerns among older adults was social isolation and with social isolation comes loneliness. (Social Isolation and Loneliness in Older Adults 2020) The National Academy of Sciences provides the following statistics regarding isolation and how it affects older adults: “Social isolation…
… is associated with an increased risk of mortality
… is associated with an estimated 50% increased risk for developing dementia
… is associated with a 29% increased all-cause risk for mortality and a 25% increased risk for cancer mortality
…has been associated with higher rates of clinically significant depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation
…has been associated with a 59 percent increased risk of functional decline”
… and “poor social relationships have been associated with a 29 percent increased risk of incident coronary heart disease and a 32 percent increased risk of stroke.”
Music therapists worked quickly and creatively to address the side effects of social isolation and loneliness among older adults, as well as all other clients, in the United States. The solution was virtual music therapy. AMTA and music therapists in the community began creating and posting resources about how to provide virtual music therapy services safely and effectively. Examples of resources provided include:
During the early days of the pandemic, Resounding Joy, a non-profit sister company to MusicWorx, developed a program called Joyful Jingle. A Joyful Jingle music therapy session provides a short but effective telehealth experience that respects virtual privacy and brings joy to one’s day. Each session is 15 minutes long and is led by a Board-Certified music therapist who uses the therapeutic power of music to combat feelings of isolation and loneliness among older adults with dementia and Alzhemier’s disease. Other goals the music therapist addresses include memory recall, prompting reminiscence, encouraging social engagement and interactions, attention to task, decreasing anxiety or agitation, and elevating mood.
Cassandra Richtsmeier, a Board-ertified music therapist at MusicWorx, who provides Joyful Jingle music therapy sessions, describes them as follows,
“The sessions are adaptable in the moment. A music therapist is trained to respond to what an individual needs at that time. Some sessions are filled with lively music for active engagement (singing, reminiscence, socialization); other times, the individual is struggling with emotions, agitated, or distracted, and benefits from relaxing, comforting music with processing support from the music therapist.”
Alyssa Janey, a caregiver to her father who receives Joyful Jingle sessions says,
“With the Joyful Jingle program, I can just inject joy right into his day and you can see it on his face. He just gets so engaged and excited about the sessions!”
If you found yourself relating to anything here, Joyful Jingle may be perfect for you. If you have a loved one in isolation and are seeking creative, alternative ways to combat loneliness, visit www.joyfuljingle.com to schedule a session. In the end, the main goal is to provide joyful, meaningful moments to you and your loved one.