Saturday, March 2, 2013

Music as a Sensorial Reminder of Time and Transition Periods

When I worked at Blue Hills Montessori School, the head of the school at the time, Mr. Lilly, a wonderful man, suggested that I add a music box to my classroom. He thought that the three minute loop of music played when the lid of the box was lifted would be better than using the bell. The bell, he explained, rings for only an instant and is not always heard by all of the children. However, the three minute composition played by the box would be heard by all simply due to the duration of its playing. He felt that the music would drift even into the far corners of my classroom and gently inform the children that the three hour work period was coming to a close.

The children loved the music box he placed in my classroom. One student was assigned each day to wind it and to open its lid at the appropriate time. "Edelweiss" was heard daily and he was correct; by the end of the song, all of the children were putting their work away and making their way to the gathering. 

I attended an all day training last week for supervisors and administrators on dementia care. One of the subjects discussed was transition times in care facilities or day programs, and ways to assist seniors during these periods. While others brainstormed back and forth, I thought of the music box I used in my classroom. Too, I began thinking of my mother.

My mother holding me when I was a baby.

My mother, Carol Irene Slocum, died December 21, 2012. It's just a little more than two months since she fell in her home in Florida and my sister called to tell me that she was on life support. She stayed on support until a few of my siblings could fly down to be by her side when it was removed. What I thought about while I sat in that conference room last week was all the times I heard my mother's voice calling me in from the yard. Her voice was so present in my mind as I listened to other professionals speak.

It was then that I raised my hand and asked if a music box might be used to help some of the seniors acknowledge that the time for lunch had arrived. It may not be effective in a large nursing home, but at The Bridge where I work and where we often have only 12-15 seniors in attendance, it could be of use.

We often have one or two seniors, who aren't interested in doing group activities, sitting in the backroom doing a puzzle, knitting or just resting. These are the few that I believe the music box would best serve. And too, many with dementia do not have an awareness of the passage of time, so they need cuing. I am thinking that this cuing may include a three minute composition of classical music.  All of the other training attendees thought that I should try my idea. I will. I need to order a music box from eBay, but I will and I will let all of you know how it worked.

Sitting here, typing this at my kitchen table, my thoughts return again to the sound of my mother calling me, "Susan, time to come in." Her voice beckons me. I see all the seniors at the Bridge in my mind now, too. I see them moving from one room into another and then turning back towards the main room as they hear the first few notes coming from the music box. It calls them back as my mother called me.

"After silence that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music."
                                                                                                                      Aldous Huxley

1 comment:

Jessica said...


This entry is beautifully written. I am so sorry to hear of your very recent loss. But I am excited to know you will be sharing the music box idea with the residents of The Bridge -- how wonderful!

My son is dyslexic and finds it difficult to recognize elapsed time. I'm going to consider this idea for him as well. :)

Thank you for sharing your wonderful blog with us all...