In January 2012 we introduced harp therapist, Orla Busteed, into our Social Programme. 

Harp music has been associated with health and well-being since biblical times. The beauty of the harp’s unique sound makes it a natural choice of instrument for music therapy.  Often the goal of harp therapy is relaxation and stress relief but harp music is often used as a vehicle for communication between the therapist and the resident and is very effective with people who suffer from Dementia / Alzheimers. 

Orla provides both group and individual harp therapy sessions weekly at Bishopscourt.  The group sessions involve recitals in the Dayroom when Orla plays ‘old favourites’ as requested by the residents.  Orla also plays for individual residents in their rooms, usually at their own request, where she customises the music to suit the mood and disposition of the resident.  For example, calming music may settle someone who is suffering from anxiety while more upbeat rhythmic melodies may be more suitable for a resident in need of energising.  Familiar music can be reassuring but conversely, improvised freer melodies can give the space for deeper contemplation.  Residents with Alzheimers react to familiar melodies and rhythms and even those with no speech have been known to sing along! Individual harp therapy sessions last approximately 20 minutes and are fully documented.

As a result of the enthusiasm for harp music shown by the residents, Orla introduced four lap harps (small harps which rest on the knees) to Bishopscourt for the use of the residents.  Over the course of a few weeks, Orla gave all interested residents the opportunity to play the harp and to learn the basic rudiments of harp-playing.   Four residents who had particular ability were selected for weekly harp lessons in March 2013 and thus the ‘Bishopscourt Harp Ensemble’ was formed.  The group had their first recital at the Alzheimers Tea Party at Bishopscourt in May 2013. All money raised went to the Alzheimers Society.   The members of the group were all awarded Certificates of Achievement for their harp-playing by Nursing Homes Ireland in August 2013. Another recital is planned before Christmas 2013.

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