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Paediatric patients experience the power of music therapy

Jessie’s Fund teamed up with Chroma to deliver music therapy to paediatric patients in York Hospital, as music therapist Steven Lyons reports.

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Music has the power to evoke emotions, to inspire and to motivate. Music therapy is a form of psychological therapy using music, sound, instruments, and music technology to support people to make positive changes in their lives. It engages and supports children and adults alike, with a range of psychosocial, emotional, medical or behavioural issues.

With this in mind, York-based charity ‘Jessie’s Fund’ kindly funded a yearlong project to bring music therapy to paediatric in-patients at York Hospital. The service offered music therapy to children staying in York Hospital and the project was supervised by clinical psychologist Emma Peakman.

The project, which ran in its present form until early June, benefited children who may not be able to, or do not wish to, communicate verbally by promoting and maintaining their emotional wellbeing.

What happens during music therapy sessions in hospital?

Small instruments can be used for activities such as exploring different sounds, musical introductions and rhythmic turn-taking giving children and families a chance to do something whilst they are awaiting news from the doctors about how long they will be staying.

Music can also be provided to individuals and groups to stimulate or relax the patient using familiar songs at the bedside, to improvised music and psychodynamic techniques to help the patient understand their emotions.

The sessions explore the role of live music on ward, facilitating open group, offering individual sessions and mentoring music volunteers.

Why is music therapy so Important to children and their families?

For children, coming to terms with a diagnosis can be difficult as can putting into words how they are feeling about it. Music offers children in this situation a way to help process and deal with their emotions. The same too can be said for the families of the child, which is why families (more often than not) are included in the sessions. A diagnosis can put pressure upon a family when a child has a medical regime to follow and music therapy provides an outlet.

Music has the power to transform lives and help children deal with their emotions whilst helping them to understand their health condition and situation. The music therapy project within paediatric psychology has provided children and their families with an alternative and creative musical medium to express and manage emotions, whether this is in a short-term in-patient setting, a planned piece of more long-term intervention, or within a group.

It has benefited children who may not be able to, or do not wish to, communicate verbally by promoting and maintaining their emotional wellbeing. This holistic approach in paediatrics, which values both physical and emotional health care greatly benefits patients and their families.

Music can transform lives and the need for non-verbal communication outlets for children who find verbal communication difficult, means music therapy is invaluable. Its ability to help children and their loved ones process and manage their emotions following diagnosis, helps provide more understanding between loved ones whilst helping all involved to accept diagnosis.

This project may be the catalyst to fuel more projects in and around the UK just like this one.

Steven Lyons is a registered music therapist at Chroma Therapies.

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Brain injury in the new normal: How to get a good night’s sleep during the pandemic

Consultant clinical neuropsychologist Dr Keith G Jenkins and Dr Jenny Brooks, consultant clinical psychologist on how to sleep well during the pandemic.

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Getting a good night’s sleep is important all of the time, as we know from our work with people with brain injury, but some people have seen their sleep pattern alter during the pandemic.

This change to the normal time people go to bed and fall asleep and/or wake up in the night, may be due to several factors, including changes to the way the person spends their day in terms of education, work, meeting up with family and friends, seeing support workers and / or attending rehabilitation sessions. Also they are perhaps exercising, playing sport or doing other activities less.

Lower mood, such as feeling sad, having worries or feelings of uncertainty, can also impact on your ability to get to and stay asleep.

Changes to our sleeping habits can lead to a poor sleep-wake cycle, otherwise known as our body clock. Not getting enough sleep, or good quality sleep, can cause fatigue and tiredness throughout the day. You might feel unwell as a result, and this can increase anxiety and worries further, making getting through the day more difficult. It might also mean that relaxing to sleep becomes harder, and a vicious downward spiral can follow.

Fortunately, there are some very simple things we can all do to support a good night’s sleep. These include going to bed and getting up at the same time each day to support your body clock, exercising during the day if you can safely do so and trying not to exercise too close to bedtime. Avoiding caffeine or nicotine close to bedtime – or reducing them if you can’t stop completely – can also help.

Be aware that alcohol might mean that you fall asleep faster, but it can disrupt the second stage of sleep, meaning that the quality of your sleep may be reduced, which can then lead to you feeling tired the next day.

It’s generally best to avoid things that may cause you upset or stress before your usual bedtime, like a difficult phone call or a scary TV programme. It is also important to reduce your exposure to blue light, for example from smartphones and laptops, before bedtime.

Blue light tricks your brain’s body clock into thinking it’s daytime and suppresses the production of melatonin. This is the hormone you need to feel sleepy.

Try to have a bedtime routine that supports you in winding down, whether that means a bath, listening to music or a relaxation CD. It’s also really important to ensure that your bedroom supports your sleep, so consider things such as lighting and temperature. Most people tend to find that a tidy bedroom can help the room feel more relaxing too.

Of course, many people with an acquired brain injury tend to experience fatigue and often find having a nap in the day can help them to manage this. But an afternoon nap should end before half past three in the afternoon at the latest, with your next sleep being in bed for the night. Headway has a very helpful section on its website regarding managing fatigue.

While bedrooms should predominantly be for sleeping, some people have been spending more time in them during the pandemic doing other things – perhaps using them as a quiet space to complete education or work.

For those in hospitals or care homes, increased bedroom time may be due to isolation procedures. If this is the case, perhaps consider having a chair or a beanbag to sit on, rather than lying on your bed during the day. Where possible, try to come out of your room for meals.

If you find it is taking a long time to get to sleep, try getting out of bed and doing something else, like reading a book or a magazine, and then return to bed when you are feeling sleepy.

The advice we have given here is in line with the recommendations on the NHS website.

A good night’s sleep is crucial to thinking at our best, which is especially important if you are working or being educated at home; and there are some other simple things that you can do to boost your productivity in these scenarios.

Firstly, make sure you have a shower and get dressed rather than working in pyjamas or dressing down. Getting dressed helps you to psychologically get into work mode. Have a designated workspace and, if possible, keep the area tidy.

Have a timetable of when you’re going to work and try to stick to it. As we’ve mentioned, writing a timetable down and ticking off jobs completed supports feelings of achievement. Make sure you schedule regular breaks during which you move away from the workspace. You might go into your garden or make a drink, for example.

Try to minimise distractions. That might mean moving your mobile phone out of reach, turning off the TV and considering where the quietest places are. If you live with other people, you might want to consider how to ensure they don’t disturb you. This might just mean letting them know what your work timetable is.

One distraction that can’t be ignored, however, is the need to wash our hands to prevent the spread of the virus.

We hope you have found this guide useful and wish you a safe and happy summer as we all continue to rise to the challenges presented by COVID-19.

This is one of five blogs in a series on living in the new ‘normal’ with a brain injury, based on a webinar produced for ABI London (ABIL). See below for links to other articles in the series. Dr Keith G Jenkins is consultant clinical neuropsychologist at St Andrew’s Healthcare and chair of Headway East Northants. Dr Jenny Brooks is a consultant clinical psychologist working independently and a director of The ABI Team. For any questions about this topic email update@standrew.co.uk. 

Fitting COVID-19 guidelines into your routine

Keeping a check on your wellbeing

How to keep in touch with loved ones during the pandemic

How to keep a routine during the pandemic

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Brain injury in the new normal: How to keep a routine during the pandemic

Consultant clinical neuropsychologist Dr Keith G Jenkins and Dr Jenny Brooks, consultant clinical psychologist on how to keep a routine during the pandemic.

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Daily structure has changed for us all during the COVID-19 pandemic and this can feel very unsettling. A regular structure and routine is important for many reasons.

First, it increases feelings of normality and control, as well as meaning and purpose; all of which can help to push back against low mood. Second, it can reduce feelings of stress and anxiety through distraction.

Finally, a structured timetable can reduce the burden associated with some of the behavioural and cognition issues that can occur after brain injury. These include difficulties in starting an activity, planning, organising and making decisions.

So what can structure and routine look like during the pandemic?

A daily routine could include a mixture of self-care activities, such as having a bath, shower, or pampering yourself, completing some household chores and keeping active through exercise. Doing something fun that you enjoy, such as an online live music event, a quiz or watching a favourite film or TV programme, could also be included.

Try focusing on those activities that you find uplifting, positive or funny. Also some find it helpful to limit their watching of the news about COVID-19 as it can lower mood and increase their worries. There are lots of ideas for activities you can do at home in our resource pack which can be viewed via the ABIL website.

Having a daily timetable written down can help to ensure that structure and routine become the norm. It can also be reassuring to be busy and have things to do.

Checking off activities completed, can support you in feeling that you’ve achieved and accomplished things throughout the day.

Furthermore, a written timetable can help you to manage your time effectively, and support variety in your day. If you have difficulties getting started on something, or beginning an activity, you could share your timetable with someone else and ask them to help you get started, perhaps through a phone call or a text.

If you prefer to do this yourself, you can set up reminders on your phone or use other devices, such as Alexa.

This is one of five blogs in a series on living in the new ‘normal’ with a brain injury, based on a webinar produced for ABI London (ABIL). See below for links to other articles in the series. Dr Keith G Jenkins is consultant clinical neuropsychologist at St Andrew’s Healthcare and chair of Headway East Northants. Dr Jenny Brooks is a consultant clinical psychologist working independently and a director of The ABI Team. For any questions about this topic email update@standrew.co.uk.

Fitting COVID-19 guidelines into your routine

Keeping a check on your wellbeing

How to keep in touch with loved ones during the pandemic

How to get a good night’s sleep during the pandemic

Continue Reading

News

Brain injury in the new normal: How to keep in touch with loved ones during the pandemic

Consultant clinical neuropsychologist Dr Keith G Jenkins and Dr Jenny Brooks, consultant clinical psychologist on how to stay social during the pandemic.

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While they’re in everyone’s best interests, COVID-19 restrictions have made life more difficult for some.

One area people are struggling with is the social isolation of not being able to visit loved ones, or socialise with anyone other than the other members of their household, if they have any.

Despite the many ways to stay in touch with family and friends – including letters, telephone and video calls and conferencing –  people may still feel lonely and isolated.

To help manage these feelings, it is worth scheduling regular days and times to have contact with specific family and friends and spreading these throughout the week. You could even ask your family and friends to make you video messages, which you could replay at any time.

Ensure, where possible, that you have time to socialise in your day, every day. Schedule a phone or video call, or ask others to organise a group chat with family, friends or colleagues.

If you have a day where you don’t have a scheduled call with friends or family, it may be helpful to use this day to go out and do your shopping or take a walk in your community if you are able to.

It may be helpful to consider what aspects of normal routine can be kept the same, modified, changed or replaced. In terms of modifying activities, it may be helpful to ask yourself questions such as could a regular meetup with someone now become a phone call? Could the pub quiz night now be a on a video call? Could a trip to a cafe or a restaurant now become a takeaway?

And for those people in residential settings and maybe having to isolate in their bedrooms, could interaction with others or groups take place in the corridor, allowing people to safely socially distance in their doorways?

It may be that some activities you enjoy can not be modified. Therefore, perhaps you could think about what it was about the activity that made it enjoyable and meaningful and consider what other activity could meet these needs.

For example, did you enjoy going for a swim at the leisure centre because it was a physical activity or because it was relaxing? Or perhaps you enjoyed the social element of it?

It’s important to remember that just because you can’t see your usual support circle, this doesn’t mean they’re not there, or that they’re any less contactable, during the pandemic.

This is one of five blogs in a series on living in the new ‘normal’ with a brain injury, based on a webinar produced for ABI London (ABIL). See below for links to all other articles in the series. Dr Keith G Jenkins is consultant clinical neuropsychologist at St Andrew’s Healthcare and chair of Headway East Northants. Dr Jenny Brooks is a consultant clinical psychologist working independently and a director of The ABI Team.

For any questions about this topic email update@standrew.co.uk.

Fitting COVID-19 guidelines into your routine

Keeping a check on your wellbeing

How to keep a routine during the pandemic

How to get a good night’s sleep during the pandemic

Continue Reading

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