Associate Care Manager Gregory is a Certified Senior Advisor (CSA) and Certified Dementia Practitioner (CDP) whose work focuses on helping aging adults and folks with limited independence by providing resources and support to help them discover and lead their best life. Gregory has been a part of CCM, Inc. for over a decade. – Charlotte
Caregivers often have incredibly stressful, non-stop lives. That kind of tension builds up over time and needs an outlet if we want to maintain the health and stability needed to continue to do all that’s asked of us. There’s no shortage of advice columns on ways to combat the stress of caregiving, but my problem with most of those methods is that they almost always seem like another obligation to me, and when my time isn’t being spent in the necessities of caregiving, I want my life to be as fun as it can be.
Singing, either by oneself, or with a group, is an incredible pressure release-valve for anyone struggling to cope. Singing for comfort is an act as old as humanity. Mothers sing to calm their children. We “whistle in the dark” when we’re feeling spooked. In times of cultural grief, we come together and lend our voices to the songs that mean the most to us. And it helps. Music helps a lot.
It’s one of the easiest things to forget that when times are tough, any situation can be transformed by music into deep feeling, or even into play. A wonderful singer herself, Julie Andrews, as Mary Poppins, provided us all with a “life hack” by reminding us what we knew as children: “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun, and snap! The job’s a game.”
Whistling while we work (as it were) is an incredibly useful trick to help caregivers maintain balance, but some find singing helpful enough that they take it another step and join a church choir, or community, barbershop, or symphonic chorus—whichever type of music best suits them. The benefits of singing by oneself are vast, but when we get together to sing, the benefits get boosted even more! I can think of these major benefits without trying too hard:
- Increased oxygenation – You gotta breathe deep to sing. When we’re stressed, deep breathing is one of the first things to go. Singing helps remind our bodies to breathe, re-establishes mood stability, and even releases endorphins.
- Physical coordination – Singing is a total body experience, using virtually every muscle group, and the vibrations act as a massage for the whole body. Singing also keeps the body acting as a unified organism.
- Decreased isolation – Showing up for a group effort of singing, or offering our singing to others, connects us to our communities and lowers the risk of depression. A sense of belonging has an almost immeasurable psychological health benefit.
- Brain Fitness – Besides possibly singing in more languages than English, participating in music helps the brain maintain its plasticity by learning new coordination skills. This staves off cognitive decline and keeps verbal, spatial, and temporal centers in the brain active and connected to each other.
- Longevity – Singing promotes overall mental and physical health which in turn increases life expectancy.
If you’re a caregiver, find your tune, or your group, and you will have found something to hold on to through the tough times.
Charlotte Bishop is an Aging Life Care Advisor, Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. She also is the co-author of How Do I Know You? A Caregiver’s Lifesaver for Dealing with Dementia .