Music therapy brings new life to the Time Out program

by Nancy Schwerin

NORTH CHARLESTON — A usually quiet room behind a quiet church on a Wednesday afternoon has been filled recently with the sound of clapping hands and tapping feet.

The men and women at the Time Out program are participating in music therapy, which helps to maintain their awareness and the abilities often lost with memory failure. Through memory recall and stimulation, the unresponsive become responsive and the immobile become mobile, and everyone has fun.

Time Out is a respite care program; that is, it gives caregivers a break and provides a stimulating environment for their loved ones. Founded in 1992 at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in North Charleston, the program is available Tuesday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It is open to men and women suffering from memory impairment illnesses.

Liz Magee, a Music Therapy student at Charleston Southern University, is the program’s first music therapy instructor. As part of her course work for school, she’s been spending a few hours a week with the clients at Time Out.

Music therapy has been growing worldwide for many years, but is still seeking its potential.

Using music as therapy came about after the World Wars, when community musicians would visit Veterans hospitals to entertain the patients. The doctors and nurses watched their patients come alive with the music. From then, the idea has grown in medical and educational settings across the world. Its affects have been studied in the elderly with cognitive disabilities, children with emotional and physical handicaps, and mental health patients. It’s an open door to feel emotions, reach out to others and just feel joy. The stimulation often causes action, but it also rings inside for those who are withdrawn, bringing them to the surface.

“Liz expects them to do certain things, and they do it,” said Nancy Moss with a note of surprise. Moss is the Time Out activities director and outreach coordinator.

The therapy helps to maintain physical, mental, social and emotional functions. So Alzheimer’s patients can sustain their quality of life for as long as possible and build a strong self-esteem.

Time Out draws between seven to 10 clients each day and has room for up to 12. Marion Johnson, site manager, and Moss run the program along with a group of volunteers, and they’re always recruiting.

Volunteers help bring the needed one-on-one attention to the clients.

During their visits to Time Out, participants make craft projects like cat toys, which they donate to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. They eat lunch and exercise; they might go on an outing, and now music therapy fills their days.

A wonderful way for caregivers to take a break, Time Out provides the necessary social interaction that keeps the memory active and keeps loved ones nearby.