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ADORAY hospice volunteers soothe patients with harp music

Glee Schofield (left) strums the Reverie Harp with Gloria Fern, ADORAY Hospice volunteer.

Glee Schofield's face lit up as she strummed the harp with Gloria Fern recently at Park View Home Senior Care Center, Woodville.

"The harp is a way for me to connect with her," said Fern. As an ADORAY Hospice volunteer, she regularly visits Schofield and looks for ways to engage her.

The 91-year-old mother with many grand- and great-grandchildren has increasing difficulty connecting with visitors since developing dementia about six years ago.

"She raised five kids and was a great mom," said her son, David Schofield, Baldwin. "She worked in a rest home and was really good with the older patients, and very respectful. It's hard to see her like this now, when she doesn't recognize us anymore."

The Reverie Harp was recently purchased by ADORAY Hospice for patients like Glee.

"We wanted to incorporate therapeutic music into the care of hospice patients," said Paula Johnson, RN, ADORAY Hospice manager. "Our volunteers bring the instrument along on their visits to provide peace and comfort to our hospice patients. And we're finding the harp ideal for engaging patients with Alzheimer's or dementia."

The instrument, hand crafted by Musicmakers in Stillwater, Minn., was designed to be lightweight and comfortable to hold, and uses pentatonic tuning so that there is no wrong way to play it.

"Even delicate patients can hold the harp and feel its soothing vibrations when it's played," said Johnson.

Hospice volunteers use the music sheets provided or strum the strings to create soothing sounds, often helping the patient play the harp too. With little or no musical background, they can play songs such as "Amazing Grace" or "This Little Light of Mine."

"One time I played for Glee in the dining room and everyone sang along," said Fern. "Everyone seems to enjoy the music."

"I'm happy to hear that the harp gives mom pleasure," said Schofield, who added that she doesn't react with joy very often anymore.

Studies have found that harp music can be very therapeutic, according to The Harp Foundation, Research has shown that harp music reduces blood pressure and heart rate. The benefits also include improved mood and decreased pain and anxiety, which can be a significant relief for the terminally ill.

"We want to thank Musicmakers for their help in selecting the right harp to serve our patients," said Johnson. "And we are grateful for the memorial gifts received from our patients' families that went toward the purchase."

ADORAY Home Health and Hospice,, is a not-for-profit agency proudly owned by Baldwin Area Medical Center; Hudson Hospital & Clinics; River Falls Area Hospital; and Westfields Hospital, New Richmond. ADORAY has served patients and their families in St. Croix, Pierce, Polk and western Dunn counties for more than 17 years.

ADORAY is holding introductory classes in September on becoming a hospice volunteer. Call Debbie Milligan, hospice volunteer coordinator, at 715-684-5020 for more information.