Culture

Music therapy helps stroke survivors regain lost speech by singing


Music therapist Tracy Bowdish works with stroke survivor Ray Hart, 62, and his partner Pamela Jenkins during a session at Sentara Fort Norfolk Plaza in Norfolk on Thursday, May 16, 2024. (Kendall Warner / The Virginian-Pilot)
Music therapist Tracy Bowdish works with stroke survivor Ray Hart, 62, and his partner Pamela Jenkins during a session at Sentara Fort Norfolk Plaza in Norfolk on May 16. (Kendall Warner / The Virginian-Pilot) 

Music therapy can make that work a little less hard, Grunsfeld and Bowdish both said, simply because it’s fun.

“Obviously, we know what we should do,” Bowdish said. “We know we should exercise more. We know we should put down the cigarettes. We know we should do things, but that doesn’t mean we do them.”

The same is true for therapy, she said, which requires both efficacy, meaning the therapy really works, and compliance, meaning the patient actually completes it. It’s hard for someone to keep a frown on their face and sing along glumly with their favorite songs, she said.

Bowdish, who has been completely blind since birth, said the occasional patronizing attitudes she encounters have affected how she treats her patients.

“I don’t ever want to be condescending or have low expectations for people,” she said. “Just because somebody had a stroke, that doesn’t automatically define who they are now.”

“Yeah!” Hart interjected emphatically, paying close attention to Bowdish’s passionate comments.

“Yeah, say it!” Bowdish responded, laughing. “That’s just one day that one thing happened. It definitely changes the rest of your life, but it’s not necessarily a major part of somebody’s identity unless they choose for it to be.”

The signs and symptoms of a stroke, from the Virginia Department of Health.
The signs and symptoms of a stroke, from the Virginia Department of Health. Courtesy of the Virginia Department of Health

Have a health care or science story, question or concern? Contact Katrina Dix, 757-222-5155,

Ray Hart’s vocabulary consisted of just one word after his August 2022 stroke.

“Yep” was all he could say, said Pamela Jenkins, his caregiver and partner of 24 years.

Like many survivors, Hart, 62, can understand what’s said to him almost as well as he could before the stroke, but it’s still hard for him to form complete sentences.

Now, though, a year after adding music therapy to his rehabilitation schedule, he can sing them.

“I’ve got sunshine on a cloudy day,” he sang during a recent session at Sentara Fort Norfolk Plaza, relief and pride glowing on his face as the pent-up words escaped. “What can make me feel this way? My girl!”

Jenkins urged medical professionals to consider including music therapy in their rehabilitation recommendations as a panelist in Friday’s Stroke Symposium hosted by Sentara in Williamsburg.

“That therapy, we have found, has helped him more than anything else,” she said.

Hart sees Tracy Bowdish, the only music therapist Sentara employs. Bowdish had worked with a task force to help pass music therapy licensure legislation in Virginia in 2020.

Despite its effectiveness for stroke survivors, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s patients and others with various types of cognitive deficit, music therapy is generally not covered by insurance, Bowdish said.

To make it accessible, Sentara takes a loss on the program and charges patients a $40 fee for each session. That amount hasn’t increased in Bowdish’s 12 years with the hospital system.

“I’m inherently skeptical by nature, so I know people look at music therapy and think it looks all fluffy,” Bowdish said.

But neurologic music therapy engages various parts of the brain, involving emotion, rhythm, memory and language, she said. When functional magnetic resonance imaging emerged, she added, practitioners thought they’d be able to find where music lives in the brain. It turned out, though, that unlike speech, which is controlled from the brain’s left hemisphere, music shows up all over the place.

“We use more of our brain when we sing than we do when we speak,” she said.

Music therapist Tracy Bowdish works with stroke survivor Ray Hart, 62, and his partner Pamela Jenkins during a session at Sentara Fort Norfolk Plaza in Norfolk on Thursday, May 16, 2024. (Kendall Warner / The Virginian-Pilot) 

Dr. Alexander Grunsfeld, Sentara’s medical director for neuroscience and the director of Friday’s conference, said the power of music has always fascinated him.

“Everything else that moves you as a human being, you can correlate that with some value for survival,” Grunsfeld said. From love to fear, there’s a clear relationship, he said, but music doesn’t seem to have the same obvious correlation.

“I’ve always been really curious about that,” he said. “Why is music so powerful?”

Related Articles

Health |

Presidential election could decide fate of extra Obamacare subsidies

Health |

As mpox cases rise, experts urge complete, 2-part vaccinations

Health |

How …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment

      

(Visited 8 times, 1 visits today)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *