How familiar holiday tunes can play a part in stroke rehabilitation

Last updated: 
Close-up of piano keyboard. Close frontal view

In Wesley Hyde’s office at Encompass Health Lakeshore Rehabilitation Hospital, there’s always music. As one of the company’s few music therapists, Wesley facilitates musical activities and exercises to address physical, cognitive and communicative issues patients often have after having a stroke or other neurologic condition. 

During the holiday season, the music in his office takes on a different tune, and you can hear patients sing and jingle bells ring to a more festive tune.

In the spirit of the holidays, Wesley has agreed to share some tips and ideas for other healthcare professionals and caregivers who also want to spread some good cheer through music.

Sing Christmas carols and holiday tunes

One of the easiest ways to include patients in on the celebration is to have them sing their favorite songs. Singing has many benefits such as improving breath support, word-finding and intelligibility. Even if a patient has significant speech or language issues, you can have them sing only the last words in the lyrics. For example, “Rudolph the red-nose rein-deer had a very shiny nose. And if you ever saw it, you would even say it glows.” 

Make it simpler for them with songs like “Deck the halls with boughs of holly Fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la.

Play festive instruments

If you want to make sure your patients are staying active, have them play all the bells and whistles that accompany music during the holidays. Jingle bells are almost a dime a dozen at arts-and-craft stores, and you can make festive homemade shakers to play along to their favorite recordings. Throwing these instruments into their regular aerobic exercise routine can offer a fun and different way to perform repetitive movements. Moving to music also helps patients coordinate their movements, and may even motivate them to push harder!

Make it a party

Nothing says “holiday party” more than gathering around to listen to good music while snacking on festive foods and working on holiday crafts. Listening to music from a patient’s young adult years can stir up fun memories and light conversation among patients and staff. This can be a great way to pass the time as patients make homemade instruments or decorate caroling notebooks. For those who are more mobile, lead a caroling parade around your facility to show off the instruments and notebooks they made.

No matter how patients engage in activities, music-making can elicit fond memories and emotions from the patient’s past. It can provide comfort and familiarity in an otherwise stressful and confusing time. It is important to note, however, that some patients may not want to participate in activities that remind them of being away from home. For this reason, always make sure to get consent from your patients before including them in any thematic activities.

With all this in mind, go out and start your new traditions with the patients at your facility! Don’t be afraid to have family and friends join in on the fun. Remember, this is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year!

The content of this site is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical conditions or treatments.