Urban Zen Program Engages Kendal at Granville Residents

July 5, 2017—Essential oils, gentle touch and mindful breathing are bringing comfort and healing to residents and staff at Kendal at Granville.

“At first, everybody was skeptical,” Director of Nursing Krystal Etters says about the Urban Zen program. A woman trained in the gentle healing therapies of essential oils, yoga and Reiki was hired to come to the community a couple times a month.

Now, she’s a popular visitor. “Everybody asks, when is she coming back?”

By smelling various essential plant oils, residents and staff have gotten relief from pain, stress, insomnia and other ailments. “I definitely have seen it work,” Krystal says.

Yoga therapy involves gentle movements and breathing exercises that can be done in a bed or chair. Reiki is a Japanese technique of light touch, on or near the body, that helps reduce stress and promote relaxation and healing.

Three other creative programs, two of them involving music, were introduced at Granville in 2016.

The Java Music Club brings residents together, often over a cup of coffee, to enjoy music. They sing along to CDs of favorite and traditional songs, play chimes and other instruments and take turns holding the “talking stick” and reminiscing about musical memories.

“Some of our residents are non-verbal, but they can play the instruments. One woman who had not said anything in a long time, held the stick and said, ‘My baby,’” Krystal says.

The other music program involves iPods downloaded with personalized music. Staff members fill out a questionnaire with residents, sometimes with assistance from family members, to uncover music interests and memories, such as a wedding song, childhood lullaby or show tune. The songs are then downloaded onto an iPod, and residents listen to the music using earbuds or headsets.

So far, about 15 residents, many with dementia or agitation, have personalized iPods. One resident was a piano instructor, and after listening to her musical favorites has returned to playing piano.

Compiling Memory Books has also helped residents connect with their past. Staff members ask residents about their family, hometown, pets, hobbies and the like and put together a scrapbook of words and images. Family members often provide the photographs.

Residents with dementia may not always recognize loved ones when they visit, but sometimes they look at the old photographs and remember them when they were young.

“We’ve seen some great progress with the Memory Books,” Krystal says.