We are shining a light on our #healthcareheroes. Meet music therapist Cynthia Cordrey, MT-BC, hospice and palliative care music therapist at ChristianaCare’s Evergreen Center. The Evergreen Center is Delaware’s only day center for adults with Alzheimer’s and dementia. 

What inspires you as a caregiver?

I’ve always enjoyed being with people and sharing music together with them. Music can represent milestones in our lives, bring back cherished memories, or motivate us to get up and dance! Even during this historic and difficult time, several of my clients have danced with their spouses, harmonized with me to a favorite hymn, and made new memories singing songs together with their loved ones. Knowing that I’ve provided the opportunity for someone to express themselves with their music during these times is an honor and privilege for me.

Cindy Cordrey plies her “telemusic therapy” to uplift the moods and attitudes of patients in the time of COVID-19.

How has your typical workday changed?

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, I would lead the participants of the Evergreen Center in person in group music therapy. We would sing, dance, play rhythm instruments, write new lyrics to familiar songs, and share life experiences connected to the music and topic we were highlighting for that day. Sometimes we would jam and improvise on the rhythm instruments, enjoying creating and expressing ourselves through our collective music.

Since COVID-19 emerged, I provide one-to-one music therapy sessions, either by telehealth or “telemusictherapy,” or outside music therapy from a patio, through a screen door, or under a tree in a yard. Initially educating myself on the best techniques in how to provide meaningful telemusictherapy was challenging, but my clients, their caregivers and I worked together on making each session better. Once the weather got warmer, many families preferred for me to travel to their home to do physically distant outside music therapy, providing a safe musical and social platform for sharing music together.

Knowing that I’ve provided the opportunity for someone to express themselves with music during these times is an honor and privilege for me.

Cindy Cordrey

What is keeping you going/motivated in these uncertain times?

There have been many “magic moments” during the one to one music therapy sessions. One would be when a client and I sang one of her favorite songs together, and when it ended, she continued and improvised her own lyrics expressing her feelings at that time. Another one would be when a client and his partner danced on their deck to “The Twist,” and when it ended said, “That was good!” Also, I never would have imagined a 90-year-old would be able to connect with me through sharing music together over a computer, but we have! Lastly, almost all the family caregivers have expressed their appreciation of singing with their loved ones, and having something to do together that is purposeful and that brings back good memories.

What advice do you have for your fellow caregivers?

Look for and celebrate the blessings that happen each day. It might be a smile, a heartfelt thank-you from a family caregiver, or knowing you’ve done the very best you could for that day. Also, make time for yourself and do something that feeds you and gives you energy. Taking care of yourself is just as important as taking care of your clients.

What advice do you have for our community?

Our community is doing a great job of being safe and being aware of protecting others. Don’t grow weary, but keep pressing on so we can get to the other side of these historic times!