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The Power of Expressive Therapies

Music to My Ears

Picture this – a husband and wife who can no longer communicate due to dementia begin individually swaying to music, unaware of each other’s presence. Within minutes, the gentleman is leading his wife in a dance and they joyfully move together in a sweet reunion of sorts. It’s a beautiful and true moment – one that captures the ability of expressive therapies to connect with our patients on levels not always possible.

As Vice President of Nursing and Patient and Family-Centered Care Services for Hebrew SeniorLife, I’ve had the opportunity to see many of our patients experience the benefits of expressive therapy programs. Whether through art, music, or movement, our expressive therapists provide psycho-social support to long-term care patients experiencing a wide range of difficulties, including adjustment to aging, life in long-term care, health status changes, depression, and anxiety.

As I regularly walk through Hebrew Rehabilitation Center in Roslindale, it’s always refreshing to hear drumming, singing and music floating throughout the halls. I often peek in on group sessions to witness a patient, who may be initially agitated or anxious, eventually become relaxed and joyful as they are lost in the music’s rhythm. I see these experiences as moments in time where long-term chronic care patients escape from daily challenges and communicate through a different channel, free of any restraints.

Working closely with geriatric physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, rehabilitation therapists and life enhancement specialists, our expressive therapists assess individual patient’s needs and develop treatment plans to address specific goals. We offer our patients both group and individual expressive therapy programs.

It also can be refreshing for families to watch loved ones experience a positive connection with something and realize that long-term care doesn’t have to be an “ending.” It can also be the beginning of joining a vibrant, welcoming community – a wonderful change to the isolation often faced at home.

We continuously watch our patients make significant progress in the areas of depression, anxiety and isolation thanks to expressive therapies. 

Tammy Retalic, RN's picture

About the Blogger

Chief Nursing Officer & Vice President, Patient Care Services

Tammy Retalic is the Chief Nursing Officer & Vice President, Patient Care Services for Hebrew Rehabilitation Center, Boston. She has nearly 25 years of health care experience and spent the past eight years at Hebrew SeniorLife working with the organization’s leadership team, employees and seniors as the Director of Professional Development, Infection Control and Occupational Health. She works closely with the Quality and Regulatory Affairs team to guarantee HSL’s clinical quality standards are achieved. Prior to joining HSL in 2004, Retalic worked at Marlborough Hospital in Marlborough...

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