Setting The Standard For Patient Care

Senior man listening to young woman playing guitar.

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When septuagenarian Sid Heninger went to get his blood pressure checked at the assisted living facility where he lives in Sebastian, a healthcare worker from the Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) who was helping out, Madonna Barashke, RN, noticed that it was very high. Sid explained to her that he normally took blood pressure medication, but his prescription hadn’t been filled in several months because his primary care physician had passed away, and he hadn’t found a new one. Madonna immediately drove him to the VNA’s Mobile Health Clinic where an APRN refilled his prescription. “After that, a lot of good stuff started happening,” said Sid.

The “good stuff” was VNA Home Health Services. Sid’s plan of care included physical therapy for severe leg cramps that were negatively impacting his mobility. It also included music therapy, a clinical form of care in which board-certified music therapists assess a patient’s physical health, emotional well-being, and cognitive skills in conjunction with other home health care services that the patient is receiving. In Sid’s case, music therapy helped with his physical issues, and it turned out to be his favorite kind of therapy.

 “That probably helped me more than any other thing …to be able to do some of those exercises with the music …it’s easier to move and exercise with music,” he said.

Sid’s VNA music therapist, Sophie Emmons MT-BC, who would play songs with her guitar that Sid liked, wasn’t surprised to hear how much he enjoyed himself. “During our first session, his physical therapist showed me what movements she was having him work on. So, I was able to apply that to music…and through this intervention, his movements were already becoming a lot more fluid,” said Sophie.

And music therapy also helped him with another issue he was having, anxiety. “To address the anxiety portion, I asked him to talk to me about how he was feeling, and after him doing so, I asked him to close his eyes and I chose a couple songs that validated the emotions he was feeling but reminded him of the positivity of life. He really enjoyed the music and even cried a little bit…We had a great time working together,” said Sophie.

Sid’s story is not unique. Many VNA patients are nursed back to health with the aid of music therapy, and it’s not only used for home health patients but private care and hospice patients as well. There’s also a recent initiative, the VNA Community Music Therapy program, that’s designed to make music therapy accessible to local at-risk populations by partnering with local organizations that serve these target populations, including the Mental Health Association of Indian River County.

But whether a patient receives VNA Music Therapy in a group setting or as a patient in the privacy of their home, they can always rely on professionals who are very talented, not just in the art of music but in the art of healing, a sentiment Sid shared when reflecting on his lessons with Sophie: “I felt like she cared about me as a person and my well-being, and unfortunately, you don’t find that anymore everywhere.”

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