And the Beat Goes On…
The instinctual comfort of rhythm, originating, perhaps, from an unborn’s earliest sense of a mother’s heartbeat, remains with us throughout life. It offers a pattern of continuity and a feeling of security. So it is no surprise that Drum Circles are an effective means of expression among those with dementia and other diagnoses.
Says Phyllis Montanari, Music Therapist at Bethel Homes & Services, “Drum Circles are non-threatening activities for residents suffering from dementia. They do not require a search for words or specific answers, so more residents will participate and have an opportunity to communicate on their own level.”
Each week, Montanari distributes 12 drums to a circle of residents. She leads the group by saying a familiar phrase such as, “Have a nice day” and repeats it in rhythm to a drumbeat. The group follows her lead. In a few minutes she stops saying the words, but the group holds the rhythm. In time, she or a member of the group suggests another phrase and they start again. “It provides them with a sense of involvement and empowerment, and sets the tone for their day,” says Montanari.
She also leads Drum Circles for Bethel’s short-term residents and a larger circle for all residents, who also benefit from their unique, therapeutic comfort. When Montanari recently offered the drum to a rehab resident, the resident banged on the drum and said, “This is my pain.” Then she tapped on the drum with her fingers and said, “These are my tears.”