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Music therapy provides harmony for dementia patients

By: Jonathan Migneault - Sudbury Northern Life

 | Apr 02, 2014 - 4:07 PM |
Sudbury-based music therapist Kylie Klym said she always brings her guitar when she meets with clients. Klym helps patients with dementia and developmental   disabilities open up to her through her music therapy. Photo by Arron Pickard.

Sudbury-based music therapist Kylie Klym said she always brings her guitar when she meets with clients. Klym helps patients with dementia and developmental disabilities open up to her through her music therapy. Photo by Arron Pickard.

Sessions used to stimulate memories and discussion

Music can bring back distant memories and have a big impact on a person's mood.

For the past year, Kylie Klym, an accredited music therapist, has taken advantage of music's therapeutic qualities to help residents at four long-term care homes in Sudbury.

“I use music to stimulate memories and discussion,” Klym said.

She has worked with clients who are normally non-verbal, but as soon as she plays a song from their youth they begin to sing along.


“The songs have stayed with them,” Klym said. “They may not recognize my name, even though we've been working together for almost a year, but they know the songs.”

Musical input has been shown to reduce social isolation, alleviate anxiety and depression, enhance social skills, and decrease the frequency of agitated and responsive behaviours in people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and related forms of dementia.


Klym will talk about her first-hand experience providing music therapy to clients of all ages over the past year, thanks to a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation to cover he salary, at a music therapy conference on April 4.

In addition to her work with older adults, Klym has also worked with autistic children and adults with developmental disabilities.

“When I work with kids, I play 'Old MacDonald' or pop songs that are on the radio right now,” she said. “When I'm working with seniors in the long-term care homes, I'm singing classic songs like 'By the Light of the Silvery Moon,' 'You are my Sunshine,' and 'Stand by Me.'”

Through music, Klym said, she can provide structure in her therapy sessions and get her clients to open up more than they might otherwise.

Most developed countries now recognize music therapy as a valid form of medical care and have their own peer-reviewed journals on the topic.

In Canada, several institutions, such as Wilfred Laurier University, offer music therapy bachelor's and master's programs.

The Canadian Association of Music therapy oversees accreditation for practitioners.

To get her accreditation, Klym had to complete a 1,000-hour internship and submit a case study to the association's board.

Friday's conference, which will take place at Finlandia Village from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., will also feature presentations by Jeff Stewart, a certified music facilitator, Joel Mackey, director of Sudbury Youth Rocks, and Dr. James Chau, care of the elderly physician lead with Behavioural Supports Ontario.

Jonathan Migneault

Jonathan Migneault

Staff Writer

@jmigneault

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