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Morley and his music therapy

For 92-year-old Morley Galt, Find Your Voice Music Therapy brings joy and memories to his days at Trillium Retirement and Care Community.

“I remember thinking to myself, Morley you’re into something...” he said tearing up in his blue recliner chair in the small room where he lives. “I’m glad to be here."

His daughters Leslie Cronk and Mary Jane Mika, who co-care for him, put Galt into music therapy about a year ago.

Mackenzie Costron, who owns the only music therapy business in Kingston, has a family connection with Cronk’s family, which is how she discovered the program.

"To be honest, I thought, well, I’m just going to give it a try,” said Cronk. "I know (Costron), I want to support her business. And oh my gosh. My sister and I both say, wow, it’s been probably the best thing we ever did for him."

With Galt experiencing symptoms of dementia, music therapy started being a way to help him cope.

“Music is the last memory centre of the brain to deteriorate with dementia and Alzheimer’s, so through music we’re able to continue to connect – and connect to meaningful aspects of their identity and memories that were impactful, or people even in their life,” said Costron. "And Morley’s actually another great example of that because he has some key songs that he associates with memories in his life and people in his life.”

A study in 2009 by the Department of Neurology, Center for the Memory of Resources and Research (CMRR) in France stated music therapy resulted in significant improvements of depression and anxiety in patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.

Costron said these kinds of things are what she’s trying to make people more aware of, seeing as music therapy isn’t a very well known form of psychotherapy and counseling in Canada.

“People know that music impacts health and there’s research behind that. We have the numbers, we have the data,” she said.

Costron has her bachelor of music therapy (BMT), is an accredited music therapist (MTA) and is a Registered Psychotherapist (RP), which also means her services can be covered by insurance. She said her business Find Your Voice Music Therapy has provided music therapy treatment to 14 facilities in the Kingston area and has treated patients ranging from ages five to 101.

Before the music therapy sessions, Galt had never taken any lessons or played any instruments, though he always liked music. Now, Costron gets him singing and playing the drum.

"When she started her business I thought what a perfect thing for my dad because he loved the old 40s and 50s music and she played all that and sang that with him,” Cronk said. "And he’s a little reserved sometimes, but she got out all kinds of different instruments that he could play. He could play a little drum that he can hold and he got right into it. I was really surprised. I didn’t think he would get into it as much, but he loves it."

One of his favourite songs is “Lili Marlene,” which he explained is an old German war song. This speaks to him because he’s a veteran of the Navy, but it also reminds him of his deceased wife and his granddaughter. Cronk explained her daughter Emma has a tattoo of a lamppost because whenever she was near a light, it would turn off and she believed it was her grandmother (Galt’s wife). Since some of the song lyrics talk about 'Lily of the lamplight,’ Galt makes the connection to the two.

In terms of how music therapy works, Costron explained they meet with the individual to form a unique program that will help reach any medical or therapeutic goals through playing, singing, writing, listening to, or talking about music. Sessions can last anywhere from five minutes to an hour and are typically ongoing until goals are reached.

Though music isn’t the only thing that goes on. Counselling is another important part of the sessions, which Galt said is the most helpful to him.

“For me, music is secondary to (Costron) bringing everything out,” he said.

His daughter, Cronk, agreed.

"My dad might not be feeling well and she’ll talk him through some things and he’ll feel so much better when she’s gone,” she said.

Music therapy is especially helpful to memory loss patients, people with Autism Spectrum Disorder, mobility diseases such as Parkinson’s or Huntington’s, mental health issues and brain injuries/stroke victims.

“I get to interact with all these people and share music, share their stories, connect and engage with a lot of these people and bring some life and bring some connection and bring some peace to their day. They often don’t have opportunity to express themselves,” Costron said.

For Galt, the music therapy sessions have had a very positive impact.

“I feel a lot better,” he said. "And I’m looking for the next one.”

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