Utilizing the Drum Circle at Palomar Vista

Submitted by Amy Pot, PT, DOR, Escondido, CA

The sound of light drumming and laughter filters down the hallway as the residents and patients start to assemble for drum circle. “I like chocolate cake, that’s the beat we’re going to play,” instructs Amy Pot, Director of Rehab, and Lulu Matos, Director of Activities, to a group of residents and patients at Palomar Vista Healthcare Center. They are drumming along on Turbano drums to I Love Rock and Roll by Joan Jett.

Pot and Matos are passionate about providing opportunities to improve the lives of the residents at Palomar Vista and worked together to build a wellness program using music as a vehicle to address many health aspects. The drum circle was a perfect medium to bridge the goals of each department. “It’s so simple anybody can do it and have a good time. We really wanted to work together to provide a dynamic program that would include everyone,” said Pot. Every week, the drum circle continues to grow. Residents and patients who were hesitant to participate become involved because the buzz is so infectious and the experience can be tailored to address their individual needs.

There are many benefits of senior drum circles, including: decreased anxiety, stress and depression; sense of community and new social connections; improved ROM, posture and coordination; muscular endurance stress relief; decreased effects of senile dementia; and building thought process self-esteem and confidence.

The construction of each drum and drum stick promoted a sense of ownership as each were customized and built by each resident to fit their needs. Some of the residents have limited movements from severe arthritis or Parkinson’s disease or may be wheelchair bound. The drums were built at varying heights to accommodate limitations in ROM, and drum sticks were provided to residents who did not have the muscular endurance to complete a song and promote grip strength. “We had hoped the residents would enjoy it. The feedback from residents and family has been overwhelming. The drum circle has been so positive in promoting a sense of community and being able to bring residents together to create something wonderful. The outcome has been amazing,” says Matos.

The drum circle is strictly driven by residents’ needs. At the request of the residents, they recently performed a Christmas concert for family and friends and are currently working on an 80s music performance for the spring.