Music therapist, Eva Wong, sings to a patient in the hallway at Richmond Hospital.
While some say laughter is the best medicine, for Richmond music therapists Eva Wong and Alexina Davis, music and song are powerful tools for helping patients, residents, and clients connect in a unique way.
“Music breaks down barriers," says Eva, “When we play to patients, it helps create a special connection and creates trust, which can then lead to patients speaking honestly about their experiences and how they're feeling."
On some units such as the stroke unit, where many patients are non-verbal, music provides a gateway. “We've seen case after case with non-verbal patients that when we're playing the music or songs that they know, they can sing the whole song with lyrics! Because singing uses the entire brain, individuals who cannot speak post-stroke may be able to tap into other parts of the brain and sing," she says, adding that music can be a way to encourage these patients to say a simple hello to their loved ones or care team.
When rehabilitating patients, Eva and Alexina have also found that music can help provide incredible motivation—using the rhythm of the guitar to give them confidence, endurance, and even a steadier gait when walking to the beat of the music.
For Alexina who works on the acute, shorter-stay units, it's all about the connection that music provides—for patients, families, and staff on the units.
“It's all about bringing normalcy to their day," she says. Whether it's to uplift a patient who has just found out they won't be returning to the home they came from or to comfort an anxious patient before blood work—music is a way to ease their stay and comfort them in a time of stress. “It lightens up the mood for everyone on the unit when music fills the halls. Often times, our staff aren't able to spend as much time with patients as they would like. My job is to connect with our patients, pick songs that will lift them up and provide comfort, and then breakdown the barriers so we can have a meaningful conversation."
Alexina says it's that sense of connection that music brings that not only impacts a single patient's journey—but how they connect with each other on the units.
“Patients really enjoy coming out of their rooms and being with other patients that are on the same journey and hearing about their experience. Music provides that opportunity to connect and motivate each other."
The Richmond Hospital/Healthcare Auxiliary has been strong supporters of music therapy, providing an annual grant of $150,000 for the past 10 years to help support programs at Richmond Hospital, Minoru Residents, and Richmond Lions Manor-Bridgeport.
“The Auxiliary Board strongly believes that music is important to the well-being of everyone," says Ursurla Van Duin, president of the Richmond Healthcare Auxiliary Group. “It's particularly noticeable in geriatric patients, as evidenced by reports from music therapists of how the program is helping these patients by stimulating, orientating, and motivating them."
On September 10th a music therapy event was held at Richmond Hospital, so people could experience all the benefits music therapy as our music therapists brought music to the halls and units of Richmond Hospital.
“We want staff who may not be familiar with music therapy to experience the benefits that music therapy can bring," says Lennie Tan, rehabilitation music therapist. “We hope people will stop by and experience the music."