Hello, Goodbye

October 27, 2011

“I don’t know why you say Goodbye, I say Hello.”  There is not a more perfect lyric to describe my Wednesday group in the SNF.

In music therapy, for those of you who are not in my field, one of the most basic interventions used is the “Hello Song.”  The use of the greeting song is to ease clients into a session, and to make everyone feel comfortable and welcomed.  Everyone.

The following video was made for the benefit of MTs, students, and people looking for a different hello song to use, so if you choose to watch it and you don’t fit into those categories, bear with me 🙂

My Wednesday group at the SNF is a very difficult one to manage.  There is a complex web of personality clashes, and some residents are set off by extremely inconsequential things.  When a resident is aggravated by another group member, it’s never just left alone.  People yell at each other, call each other names, talk about inappropriate topics at inappropriate times, and intentionally go against the grain in a very negative way.  And this is baseline.  I get very frustrated, because while I have no issues managing large groups and loads of dementia-related behaviors simultaneously, with this group, I am sometimes at a loss.

There haven’t been any significant issues since a name-calling episode a few months ago, but two residents (E., and C.) have continued, after months and months to say, “Good-bye,” instead of “Hello” during the hello song.  They’re not doing it because they are confused about which end of the session we are at, they’re doing it to be funny, or difficult, or fresh.  Whatever the reason, it’s not appropriate social behavior for our setting.  There are people in my session with advanced dementia, who could be extremely confused by the change in that one word during the hello song.  I leave room for each person to greet the group in their own way, so if they say, “bonjour,” I validate their response by repeating “bonjour” where I would normally repeat “hello,” as with any other greetings.  I DO NOT validate clients’ responses when they are doing something that is intentionally counterproductive.  It feeds into the behavior, and since these people are adults, I’m not interested in feeding into behavior that creates a negative energy in my session, and potentially disorients cognitively challenged individuals.  If there’s a space for residents to talk about how they’re feeling, I ABSOLUTELY validate ANY emotions that people are feeling, be them anger, happiness, sadness or irritation, but this nonsense is different. It was funny at first, but after months of trying to get them to work with me, as two of the more “able” participants, I’m no longer amused.

Yesterday, B., a very sweet but somewhat confused woman took E’s silverware at breakfast.  It was an accident (I’m sure most of us have taken someone’s silverware from time to time…) but E. was so angry about it, that she brought it up to my student prior to our group.  She couldn’t let it go, and didn’t seem to believe that B’s slight was unintentional.  During the greeting song, after she said “good-bye,” in place of Hello when she herself was addressed (said with flat affect, shaking her head, and lacking eye contact) during the greeting, she also said “GOOD-BYE,” very loudly, when B. was being welcomed by my student therapist. It seemed like she was trying to make a point by being particularly harsh when directing her “good-bye’ toward B (she was looking over at B while she said that) and then saying “Hello” very enthusiastically when a woman she is friends with was addressed.  Nonsense.  Are we in third grade?  Anyway, these are the sorts of complicated group dynamics that aren’t even appropriate to bring up during a session. Picture it…

“Now, ladies…let’s all cooperate and be nice to each other while we’re in music therapy.”  Yeah, right.

I have resolved to speak individually with E. next week (and the others who are participating in “opposite day”) prior to the group and ask them to please cooperate for the sake of the other residents.  I chose not to work with children for a reason, and that reason doesn’t have anything to do with age.

It’s maturity.  Or so I thought…


2 Responses to “Hello, Goodbye”

  1. Love the Hello song– and I’d like to use it with my SNF group. What chords do you use? Thanks!

    • I learned this Hello song at a conference a few years ago! I play a standard E blues chord progression – E, A7, E E7, A7, E, B7, A7, E (I think the chords are also in the “information” section for that video on YouTube). THanks for reading!

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