As the warm sounds of classical guitar fill the room, smiles widen and faces light up. Kshitij Rawal is enjoying the audience’s reaction to an afternoon concert.
But Rawal isn’t on stage in a music hall. He’s in a community room at Sherrill House, a 196-bed, not-for-profit skilled nursing and rehabilitation center nestled along the Emerald Necklace in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston. Rawal is a bona fide musician, but also happens to be the center’s Director of Expressive Therapy and Special Care Program Director.
Expressive therapy, which includes music therapy, is one of the special care programs at Sherrill House that support the center’s core services – short-term rehab, long-term care, and Dementia/Alzheimer’s care. With decades of experience, the staff at Sherrill House is familiar with the positive impacts that special programs – along with compassionate care and a sense of community – can have on a patient or resident’s physical, mental, cognitive, emotional, and spiritual health.
“Music has a healing power,” said Rawal. “Our group and individual sessions not only enhance our residents’ overall health and well-being, but also enrich their experience at Sherrill House – whether for short-term recovery after surgery, long-term care, or memory care.”
Sherrill House offers group and individual music therapy sessions led by a team of trained and board-certified music therapists, who, through a powerful collaboration with Berklee College of Music and Lesley University, work closely with a cohort of music therapy interns. This provides patients and residents with access to top-notch music.
In addition to expressive therapy, Sherrill House’s special programs include a robust corps of volunteers who visit with residents and build strong relationships with them. The community outreach program is equally important to residents and the mission of Sherrill House.
Sherrill House takes great pride in offering an array of pastoral care programs and services to meet the spiritual needs of patients, residents and families. The trained pastoral care staff is interfaith and offers a non-judgmental presence, demonstrating respect for each individual’s beliefs. They assess the needs and wishes of each resident and family upon admission, and are available to visit residents individually to listen and provide spiritual support.
These programs don’t exist in a vacuum. They are just a few small pieces of what makes Sherrill House different than other skilled nursing centers.
The short-term rehab program, Return to Home, is ideal for people recovering from orthopedic surgery, injury, or illness. The program and its caring staff are dedicated to helping patients heal and return home as quickly as possible.
The fully-equipped occupational therapy training suite – with the look and feel of a real apartment – has been designed to enable our patients to develop and improve the skills they’ll need to live independently. This safe place allows patients to practice one-on-one with rehabilitation therapists such skills as getting in and out of bed, preparing food, and maneuvering around the bathroom. The center also features a sunlit, 3,000-square-foot therapy gym overlooking Olmsted Park.
“Sherrill House’s Return to Home program is an intensive rehabilitation program designed to maximize each patient’s potential in the shortest period possible, so that they can return home,” said Patrick Stapleton, the CEO of Sherrill House. “Our upbeat, experienced staff are at the ready to help each patient make the progress they need to reach goals, be healthy, and reunite with friends and family in their community.”
Some of these same resources also help Sherrill House care for people with Alzheimer’s and other progressive neurological disorders. The Special Care Program uses a developmental approach, grounded in the importance of patients and their families in a positive environment. It also champions a strong partnership between families and staff to enable everyone to accept care more comfortably.
The interdisciplinary Special Care Program includes clinicians, therapists, counselors, and others. In addition to Alzheimer’s, the team has extensive experience in caring for residents with Lewy body dementia, one of the most common types of progressive brain diseases, and the second leading cause, after Alzheimer’s disease, of degenerative dementia in older adults. Symptoms include progressive cognitive decline and problems with motor function as well as fluctuations in attention and visual hallucinations.
Here again, music therapy plays an important role in care, as it is becoming an increasingly important non-drug therapy for dementia, according to Harvard Medical School1. At Sherrill House, special attention is given to those with dementia by offering daily groups during the late afternoon “sundowning” time to decrease agitation and to encourage enjoyment.
“Our expressive therapy program is a perfect illustration of the work here at Sherrill House,” said Stapleton. “It’s an engaging, intimate activity, that when combined with our comfortable accommodations, clinical expertise and welcoming community, helps remind our patients and residents that we’re here for them, not for profit.”
1. Harvard Health Publishing. (Feb. 2022). The Rising Tide of Dementia and the Need for Non-Drug Therapies. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/the-rising-tide-of-dementia-and-the-need-for-nondrug-therapies-202202012679