The yearly comeback

I’ve done it before, and I’ll probably do it again, but here I am returning after a hiatus. My intention was to blog about my work, but while it’s true that while every day is wondrous, not all are unique and post-worthy. Not only that, I’ve never really been much of a writer, honestly. That being said, it’s been a while, and I’ve been re-motivated again, and there’s even put a little reminder on my phone now so I’ll post something at least once a week. At the very least, some of the Bedside Harp ladies find interesting links that I could share. Perhaps I will be motivated to read more and share quotes and thoughts and such. I hear writing out plans and making yourself accountable are effective methods of getting things done, and I certainly need all the help I can get in that respect for the time being. I rather fell off the bandwagon in many aspects of life, but I’ve been keeping up the good work. Days are filled with smiles and tears and music – most of the same songs I’ve been playing the whole time, which I also need to remedy. I’ll put the reminder with the blog one so I’ll learn at least one new song a week to start. It sounds like a lot, but I’ll start small and build my way up. Habits are hard to build.

Cheers <3


New old song

I learned this song recently by request. Like so many of the era, sweet, simple, memorable. Nursing home residents seem to dig it. I rather like the melody, and I like to pair it with Red Sails in the Sunset because I think it’s cute.


Bittersweet times

Today I played for a couple – both of whom are on hospice care, but live in different nursing homes right across the street from one another. I had played for them separately once before a few weeks ago. He was very enthusiastic despite being almost totally deaf and had me play for his fellow residents at lunch time. She has dementia and is mostly unresponsive. Today, they were together. He was visiting with her in her nursing home. She was awake, but breathing hard and scratching her head a lot. He asked for love songs. Though deaf, he picked up “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” and sang along a bit and held her hand. She reached across to hold his hand with both of hers. It was a very sweet moment. Her breathing softened, and I believe she fell asleep.

Last time we met, he told me they’d been married (I think) almost 70 years. He got emotional then and told me he gets upset when he thinks of his wife. Seeing them together today – I admit I ended the session earlier than I originally intended because I saw him starting to get emotional, and I was about to as well. I believe, though, he wanted me to stop anyway. He was still very kind and grateful, smiling through his tears.


What. A. Day.

Today was already pretty wonky to begin with. I enjoyed myself at the Union game last night (or, not really since we lost to Chicago – badly) and woke up today a bit groggy. Already off to a slow start, I had decided to reverse my initial plan for today and go to the inpatient unit in Trenton first and then a nursing home. Well, I zoned out while driving and got off at the exit to the nursing home instead. Since it crossed a bridge into NJ, instead of turning around, I aimed for the other north-bound highway I knew would take me to Trenton. Somehow I got all kinds of turned around. I almost gave up on the day entirely right there and thought about heading home. Instead, I kept driving and just picked whichever sign pointed north. I had been on this route once or twice before, so I wasn’t entirely lost, but I had no idea where I was in relation to where I wanted to be. Finally I recognized where I was – and I just happened to be right around the corner from the nursing home I intended to go to later. Figuring everything happens for a reason, I went there first as I’d initially planned.

I had a relatively short if pleasant round there. It was almost lunchtime (which is why I wanted to go to Trenton first), and one of our clients just happened to be sitting outside with some guests, so I played for them there. Instead of waiting around for an hour while others ate lunch, I headed up to Trenton.

There, I played for a woman who seemed to enjoy it, which was nice. Then I played for a woman who was hard for me to handle. She was having trouble breathing. You won’t want details, but I admit that I was a bit queasy while playing. After that I felt I needed a break, but then a nurse told me that another man was actively dying, so I headed to his room instead. There, after almost three years with CCH, I played for someone as he passed. I have played for a (very) few actively dying people, but they were still living when I left. The nurse who was there to hold his hand was very kind and asked if I was ok. I’m still working on the answer.

Clearly, death is natural and, working in hospice, I’m close to it all the time. That being said, that experience along with the rest of the day drove me home early. I feel somewhat bad since there were a few more people to play for, but I was just exhausted and came home.

So that was my day. It was a rough one.


Encounters

I had a couple notable encounters today. First, a woman I’ve played for a few times, not one of my patients, but lives in one of the nursing homes I go to for the hospice. Usually she’s sitting in the corner of her room and her husband sits outside the door. Last time, a couple weeks ago, she sang “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” and her husband seemed very excited that she was singing. This week, she seemed very chatty. She said “My husband’s eyes are blue” as I played that song again (because of the line “Keep the lovelight glowing in your eyes so blue”). I felt like staying for a few extra songs, so she said something about every woman crying once in her life, usually when she has a baby because she’s bringing someone new to the world, and wouldn’t it be nice if everyone in the world loved each other? Maybe we should go down the street and greet everyone “I love you I love you I love you.” She said she cried this morning because she thought she and her husband were breaking up. My favorite line, though (the one that made me laugh, anyway): “My husband brings me flowers every day. I love flowers. You know what else I love? Tomato sandwiches.” Perhaps it wasn’t such a non sequitur – she told me her father, who was a very sweet man, grew tomatoes. She wanted me to be sure that I make people happy. This lady was all kinds of full of love today.

Just after her, on the same floor of the same home, another woman I’d encountered before, also very confused and always yelling for help or a push in a very loud, whiny voice. I heard her yell “I don’t want a rub I want a push” to a nurse who was rubbing her shoulder. Before when I’d played for her she’d yell for a push and otherwise mostly ignore the harp. Today, she watched it and said in the same loud whiny voice “A harp.” Then instead of “I want a push,” she said “I want a harp!” She stayed surprisingly quiet for a while, though a few minutes later after I went to the other end of the hall, as I was getting on the elevator I heard her yell again “I want a harp!” She was still confused and distressed, but I couldn’t help but smile because the harp seemed to stick with her today.


Feeling appreciated

Two great quotes from yesterday:

Nurse – “Aww you’re coming to soothe our souls? That’s wassup!”
Patient – “I wish you could stay here all day. You’re better than radio or tv!”

Feeling blessed doing my work :)


Entrainment

Today I finally experienced something that I’d heard about, but never really ‘accomplished.’ I know in harp therapy we don’t have specific goals (or at least try not to) and many times people are affected in ways we can’t see and will never really know about. Today, though, I had one of those experiences that make harp therapy sound really exciting. This is the kind of thing I wait to write about.

Firstly: entrainment – (of a rhythm or something that varies rhythmically) cause (another) gradually to fall into synchronism with it

I played for a patient who was breathing pretty rapidly, and she vocalized her exhalations like “hahahahaha” with five or six iterations at a time. She was also receiving a gentle massage at the time. I played to her breathing, for once getting over feeling awkward about not playing a specific song and just ‘noodling’ for an extended time. After about five minutes she closed her eyes. At about ten minutes, the pace had slowed noticeably – my tempo followed – and she vocalized only twice when exhaling. Then once. For a bit she let out one long groan. By the end, she was exhaling with one long, silent breath and was breathing much more slowly. She seemed to fall asleep – she stayed that way even when we left.

Afterwards, I felt so uplifted, not just because I felt I accomplished something with results that I could actually see, but because it was such a special time. I don’t know much about the patient’s background, but she was clearly more relaxed even if only for those few minutes – and however long after.


I’m back!

Meanwhile, here’s this awesome video

 


Taking for granted

If I’ve said it once, I’ll say it many times again, one of the most important lessons taught in the BSH program is not to make any assumptions. Taking things for granted is kind of an assumption, and despite knowing I shouldn’t do it, especially in this line of work, sometimes it’s hard. I wrote of a patient a long while back, comparing her to Eeyore in her demeanor. I don’t believe I’d be violating HIPAA to name her Peggy (since it’s a nick name and I’m not naming the facility). She has been around since I started with Compassionate Care. Despite her melancholy eyes and voice, she expresses deep appreciation whenever I come play for her. She almost always says “I missed you” and often wonders if I’ve been ill when I’ve been away for long. Lately even my untrained eyes could see her deteriorating, but it really hit today when, for the first time, she didn’t sing along with Eidelweiss. I played it for her every time because she loved it so much and always sang along. It almost brought tears to my eyes when she just stared at the harp. I know she still loved it, though, since she was so relaxed and fell asleep.

That was another thing, she’d often stare at me while I played. Honestly it made me feel a bit fidgety, but I could really see today how far she’s gone since she could barely lift her eyes. She did stare at the harp, though, so that’s a positive. She was still sitting up in her chair, and she still eats lunch with the rest of the residents, but it’s sad seeing her slipping away like that. I’ve only seen her every two weeks (or three or four) for the last year or so- I can’t imagine how it would be with a close relative. Honestly I kind of dread getting the e-mail of patient population updates where we see who’s passed or otherwise changed their status and some day seeing her name.


Scene

I walk by a room and see a lady lying in bed on her side, clothed and uncovered, awake. Her neighbor’s tv is blaring, though her neighbor’s not in the room. She’s not watching the tv, just lying there. I go in and turn off the television; that alone eases the atmosphere somewhat. I play gently for her, a bit longer than I usually do for the general residents. She never seems to look at me or acknowledge me in any way, though as I play on, her eyes slowly close and she begins snoring softly. There are no monitors or verbal cues – no external signs of any change in her condition, but I can’t imagine how peaceful it must be to drift asleep to harp music after listening to a loud obnoxious television for goodness knows how long.

This, sadly, is not uncommon. It happens almost every day. People just sit there, sometimes staring at the tv, sometimes not, and it’s turned up extra loud because they can’t hear well. Just imagine then how loud the commercials are. Perhaps it helps them to hear better, but I can just imagine the awful things those loud, noxious vibrations are doing to their bodies. Sometimes I feel like if I do nothing other than turn down or turn off a tv (that the resident is not watching of course), I’ve made a significant positive change to a resident’s day.