Friday, November 18, 2011

Drum therapy?

8:52 p.m. Today's project was to take Steve with me to the Caregivers' Retreat sponsored by the Riverside County Office of Aging. They provided lunch for both caregivers and their loved ones, as well as the respite care so many family caregivers need. I had left my Mary Kay boutique display in the very capable hands of my team member Candace; and Steve's early lunch and nicer outfit under the supervision of our caregiver. So we were able to take off south shortly after I got home.

The object of the afternoon was to help caregivers learn relaxation techniques that could mean the difference between illness and wellness for those facing this huge responsibility. 58% of caregivers die before their Alzheimer's victim does, a scary statistic, but utterly understandable with the chronic stress inherent in the role. Before any techniques were discussed or taught, we each put our name on a folded piece of paper for a drawing for a 20 minute massage. Two massage therapists demonstrated a simple method for helping relax your loved one. They then pulled out several names from their basket and assigned the 20 minute slots. I won one, yippee! Then specific relaxation methods were taught, such as playing music that has a very specific meaning to you. I naturally thought of the praise song "Let Faith Arise" that was going through my head:

"I lift my hands to believe again
You are my refuge, You are my strength.
As I pour out my heart these thing I remember--
You are my faithful God forever!
Let faith arise!"

We were told that a few minutes of meditation or prayer have actually been shown to have as much physical benefit as taking an hour's nap. The Psalms are full of examples of and exhortations to meditate on God, His word, His will, His works and His wisdom. Selah is an oft-repeated word, meaning, "Consider." Psalm 32:7 says,

You are my hiding place;
You shall preserve me from
You shall surround me with
   songs of deliverance.    Selah

Other techniques included painting with watercolors, stretching movement, aromatherapy and one I considered odd until I tried it, "group recreational drumming." ( ! ) And wouldn't you know it? Just as the drumming session was about to start, it was my appointed time to have a massage, of which I am a huge fan. I get them whenever I have the finances available, and like to have a massage therapist at my Mary Kay spa parties. So I kicked off my shoes and lay on the table, closed my eyes and was still, hoping to ignore what I assumed would be a noisy racket.

The two massage tables were at one side of the multipurpose room, so the larger group was getting their instructions as my precious 20 minutes began. And I have to admit that it wasn't wild and loud, but carefully directed. The attendees used soft mallets and Remo practice pads. The teacher started them off with a basic two beat style that imitates the mother's heart rhythm that a baby hears for 9 months, then on to a simple walking beat, then skipping. By the time I returned to my seat in a very relaxed state, individuals were offering their beats for us all to join in with.

There is something satisfying about percussion instruments. I loved playing the piano for several months about ten years ago, and found even my elementary practice and gradual improvement very soothing and challenging at the same time. The reason I stopped was that cancer surgery and the removal of lymph nodes kept my right arm sore and swollen for a long time, so pounding of any kind was out of the question. It even hurt to play my violin! I keep promising myself that I'll get into it again, even re-start lessons. The Lord has healed my arm, and my arthritis has even subsided this year, so my excuses are beyond thin!! And I am encouraged by the mention of  one percussion instrument, the cymbal, in 2 Chronicles 5:13, used to celebrate the arrival of the Ark of the Covenant to Solomon's temple.

The watercolor painting was fun, very freestyle, done while listening to popular songs that mentioned the colors of the rainbow. I decided to leave before the aromatherapy, however, because I didn't want to contract a splitting headache. Strong scents and I do not mix!

The instructor had shown us how to make a soft mallet from a sock and a dowel, so I got those two items from the back, said quiet goodbyes to our facilitators Mary and Darlene, and went to pick up Steve from down the hall. He was contentedly working on a puzzle with the group, and almost seemed reluctant to leave, praise the Lord! (He hadn't gone into the room very happily hours before).

On the way home, I chuckled to myself because we have a drum we can use with my new mallet--an authentic Indian handmade one of skin and wood from Santa Fe, New Mexico that has just been quietly sitting on my living room window sill. I moved it into better reach when I got home!!

Early in


  1. Music is so good for Alzheimer patients and apparently Steve's caregiver/spouse!

    Hugs and prayers,

  2. Thanks, Carol, I hope your area gets some of these caregiver classes and support groups, even beneficial activities like we had yesterday.