Music therapy creates wellbeing in memory care
It’s late afternoon at Oak Ridge, one of six single-family assisted living and memory care homes in Minnetonka and Edina operated by English Rose. The home’s six residents begin to gather in the living room as Christian Nielson, a board-certified music therapist, gently tunes his baritone ukulele.
For the next hour, Christian will cycle through a century’s worth of music from a wide variety of beloved genres, from well-known spiritual tunes to radio classics from Elvis and John Denver. The group, tentative at first, soon fills the room with smiles, hand-tapping, laughter, and commentary.
“Live music is always a resident favorite,” says Zack Parlier, English Rose Home Manager and Dementia Expert, “Our music therapists do more than just fill our homes with beautiful melodies. They help us feel. They use music to connect people to themselves and their memories. For those living with Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias, music therapy engages them in a life review process that profoundly connects them to their personal joys and life meaning.”
Christian is one of a handful of inspired musicians who rotate through English Rose’s six assisted living and memory care homes on a weekly basis. With over a thousand hours of clinical training, he’s highly trained in music, psychology, physiology, education, and spirituality. “I’ve seen people who are minimally verbal or deep into memory loss sing all the words to their favorite songs,” says Christian. “His interactions with residents are always purposeful. He’s a master at artfully drawing out expression,” explains Zack, “He has a special way of using music to melt through hesitations and physical limitations.”
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