Lessons Help Bridge Gaps for Seniors
 

From the moment you meet Martha Johnson, you know she’s a natural caregiver.  Whether she’s offering you a soda or giving you a blanket she’s collected through her project Cover with Kindness, you can tell she’s dedicated to making everyone she meets feel special. 

Johnson, a registered technologist in radiography and mammography and Certified Breast Patient Navigator at the Women’s Center at Sparks Medical Plaza and healing music practitioner, is now working to provide calming activity for patients at Sparks SeniorCare Behavioral Health. 

Twice a week, Johnson teaches patients how to play the Native American Flute, which Sparks Health System provides. “It keeps them active, from range of motion to breathing techniques,” Johnson said. “Music is also very relaxing for them.”

Many of the patients there are dealing with mental illness, such as depression or age-related memory loss.

“The program helps bridge the gaps,” Johnson said. “It’s an opportunity to enhance their mental health, memory, and their well-being, too.”

In 2008, Johnson began playing as a hobby and later completed the Music for Healing and Transition Program at Baylor Hospital in Dallas. She often practiced the flute for a dear friend, who was battling ovarian cancer, as she underwent chemo therapy.

“That’s when I realized what music can do, not only for the patient but the nurses, the staff,” she said. “Others would come in and listen; the music would just float down the hallway.”

In addition to helping patients lower their blood pressure, the program can also help stimulate their memory. “It plays an important role because music is very soothing and music is sometimes what dementia patients remember from their childhoods,” said Tammy Eaton, Director of Impatient Medical at Sparks.

Johnson also spearheads Echoes of the Children, a project that allows her to teach the kids at the Hamilton House Child and Family Safety Center how to play the flute. 

SeniorCare Behavioral Health is a secure 23-bed inpatient unit and specializes in acute care of dementia, depression and other mental health concerns of adults age 55 and older. The geriatric psychiatry inpatient program is the only one of its kind in a 60-mile radius of Fort Smith. For more information about Sparks Health System, visit www.SparksHealth.com.