Music Therapy Students Help Elant at Newburgh Residents and Patients with Rehabilitation

Focus is on rhythm and beat, not pain during therapy sessions

Newburgh, N.Y. (May 17, 2011) – Two music therapy students enrolled in the SUNY New Paltz Graduate Music Therapy program have given residents at Elant at Newburgh a valuable distraction while undergoing rehabilitation therapy.


Music therapy is often used in nursing home settings to provide comfort to residents by reducing anxiety and fear, provide social support, physical mobility and cognitive productivity.


In the internship program, Qi Yang and Sisi Lin have been conducting music therapy sessions at Elant at Newburgh for two days per week since January specifically for the campus’ residents and patients who need rehabilitation therapy. Both students are residents of China. They sang and played the guitar, tambourine and drums.


For those patients undergoing rehabilitation therapy (due to illness or injury) the pain they are feeling can often make it difficult for the patient to move their legs or arms to complete necessary rehabilitation exercises. However, through the use of music the patient becomes distracted with the music and tempo and forgets about the pain.


Patients performed exercises in different ways with the students, such as kicking a tambourine to the music. They also had an easier time walking during therapy to songs that had a distinctive rhythm or tempo, like “When the Saints Go Marching In,” “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree (With Anyone Else But Me” and “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.” The patient concentrates on the tempo of the song, which makes walking easier.


“The students have used a non-traditional approach to foster patient movement,” said Rick Linken, Director Rehabilitation, Elant at Newburgh. “Through the use of music and rhythm our residents undergoing therapy have found a new way to overcome pain and become relaxed. This enables the patient to have better movement and a more beneficial therapy session”


One Elant at Newburgh resident, John Mangano, is often very nervous and jumpy prior to and during his rehab therapy session. His hand shakes, making it difficult to do the rehab movements. The music and song delivered during the music therapy helps John relax. Qi Yang and Sisi Lin have been working with John regularly to the point that John is familiar with many of the songs and requests his favorite Chinese and Korean songs.


“The music soothes me; relaxes my nerves and makes me feel good,” he said. “I am more relaxed and then the therapy (rehab) is easier for me.”


The students have also had a positive impact with many of our residents challenged with dementia and cognitive issues. Heidi Williams, Director Activities, said, “Although these residents may have lost memories they often remember the words to favorite songs. When the students are with these residents you can often see them singing and tapping their foot in time with the music. I have enjoyed working with the students because of the successes and joy I have seen with the residents.”


Elant at Newburgh will continue to work with the SUNY New Paltz Music Therapy program to provide internship opportunities for music therapy students interested in working with older adults.


Christine O’Toole, Vice President and Executive Director, Elant at Newburgh, said, “Our residents have thoroughly enjoyed their interactions with both Qi Yang and Sisi Lin. Not only have the residents enjoyed the music and song, but many have also gained a positive benefit during their rehabilitation therapy sessions.”

SUNY New Paltz graduate student Qi Yang sings to Elant at Newburgh resident John Mangano