Juanita Fox

If sounds can affect mood and sleep cycles, wouldn’t you want to harness that power in your long-term community?

We’re doing just that at Garden Spot Communities, a continuing care retirement community near Lancaster, PA. We recently partnered with an online music and sound platform to explore the possibilities.

Composure’s platform provides soundscapes, called Sonic Journeys, to long-term care residents as a non-pharmacological intervention for improving mood and disposition, aiming to increase quality of life and cooperation during activities of daily living like eating, bathing and dressing. Using the platform helps residents feel empowered by taking an active role in their well-being, while care teams appreciate timely data that helps them track resident disposition and anticipate their needs.

Mood testing in skilled nursing

In the first round of testing at Garden Spot’s Maple Farm Skilled Nursing community, Activities Director Laura Glick led a trial with resident volunteers.

Using an iPad, Glick walked residents through the app. They were asked to self-report their mood, alertness and comfort level, choose a desired mood goal and length of experience. These selections acted as a set of instructions for the app to deliver an appropriate Sonic Journey designed to start from a resident’s current mood level and gently guide them toward their goal. At the end, residents again self-reported their mood, alertness and comfort level.

For non-verbal residents, Glick reported mood and comfort level in the pre and post-session questionnaire. Capturing this kind of “before and after” data helped to identify changes in mood and disposition residents may have experienced. Glick reported a clear shift in mood, reporting residents are generally more relaxed (occasionally to the point of falling asleep) and more comfortable (less agitated).

“I appreciate the app as an opportunity to interact with residents who are hesitant to leave their rooms,” Glick said. “The app gives me a reason to begin a conversation; many can use the app on their own, while others benefit from me starting the app for them.”

Initial data at the end of the 12-week trial at Maple Farm showed improvements across all measures, with most residents experiencing both short-term and long-term improvements in their mood and outlook. Maple Farm is now participating in the platform’s beta testing, and this second round is showing very similar results.

Beta testing in the Garden Spot Village households echoes the experience at Maple Farm. At Garden Spot Village, independent living resident volunteers are helping skilled nursing residents participate in the trial, while also providing peer-to-peer engagement between people living in different parts of the community. 

Sleep testing in memory support

In June 2021, Garden Spot’s newly built memory support neighborhood, Meadow View, participated in a first-of-its-kind sleep study using the platform. 

“The sleep patterns of people 65 and older are often erratic and jumpy. It’s difficult for most older adults to achieve a restorative sleep pattern. Add dementia to the mix and it can be even more difficult. We wondered if, by using only sound as a stimulus, we could help bring back restorative sleep for residents living in Meadow View,” said Composure co-founder Jeff McSpadden.

The 30-day sleep study used a pre-selected, eight-hour soundscape that started in late evening. The soundscape began with relaxing, ambient music that lasted approximately 45 minutes and was intended to provide a calming atmosphere and gentle cueing for residents as they prepared for bed. This musical section then transitioned into a proprietary, white noise-like “blanket of sound” that lasted throughout the residents’ full sleep cycle. At the end of eight hours, the sound blanket would slowly fade away, allowing residents to wake naturally. 

Several of the measured behavioral outcomes with residents showed improvement, including increased cooperation in care and reduced daytime drowsiness.

“Stepping back and looking at the results is incredible — the recorded change in sleep patterns and cooperation is inspiring. I look forward to seeing the data on individual residents so we can add sonic therapy to their person-centered care,” said Melody Karick, director of memory support at Garden Spot Village.

Juanita Fox is the director of media experiences and storytelling for Garden Spot Communities, based in New Holland, PA. Juanita and her team use innovative solutions to share the stories of the people who live and work at Garden Spot Communities.