Turn On the Radio: Top 9 tips for the radio in caregiving

If you care for people who are aging or who have disabilities, whether you’re a family caregiver, an activity director, a nurse, a CNA, an administrator, or a music therapist, this post is for you! As a caregiver, you’re probably interested in helping your care receiver access music from time to time, and whether they like Beethoven or Beyonce, the radio is probably the cheapest and easiest way to access music, especially if you don’t have an easy way to get on the internet. Even though many people are using the radio differently now than in years past, as I discussed here and here, the radio is an important tool for any caregiver to have.

Below are my top 9 tips for using the radio in caregiving. These apply whether you are caring for a loved one at home or for people in residential facilities. If you’re local to Soundscape Music Therapy, here in the Kansas City area, check the notes at the very bottom of this post for local radio options (marked with ***s!)

Here’s what to DO:

  • DO make sure that your care receiver’s radio is within their reach. That may involve moving some furniture or buying a radio with a longer power cord. Or, you could buy a radio that comes with a remote control.
  • DO make adaptations to help your care receiver operate the radio. Adapting the controls may be as simple as putting a sticker on the on/off button or building up a bigger button to push with whatever materials you have on hand.

    Simply adding labels can make the radio easier for some people to use.

  • DO ask for permission before changing the station, and choose one of that resident’s preferred stations.
  • DO post a list of preferred stations so that other caregivers can make sure to put on the music your loved one enjoys. If the radio has buttons for preset stations, go ahead and set those favorite stations, too.*
  • DO find out if the care receiver has favorite programs to listen to, and post those with the list of favorite stations. One popular choice: A Prairie Home Companion, with Garrison Keillor, usually broadcast on your local public radion station.**

Here’s what NOT to do:

  • DON’T play the radio all the time. We all need silence sometimes, and constant music can be overstimulating and cause agitation.
  • DON’T turn on the radio and the TV at the same time. I’m sure that YOU know better than to do this, but I’ve walked into too many rooms in nursing homes where both roommates have a radio and TV on. Talk about overstimulating! Anyway, I hearby give you permission to turn off one or two of those devices when you see this same situation.
  • DON’T run extension cords under rugs or across rooms to plug in the radio. Those are potential fire and tripping hazards.
  • DON’T despair if you can’t find the music your loved one likes on the radio. My next post will cover other non-radio options for accessing the music you love. Stay tuned!***
* If you’re in the Kansas City area, some popular stations among my older adult clients include KPRT 1590 AM for gospel music, KXTR 1660 AM for classical music, KCMO 94.9 FM for oldies and KCUR 89.3 FM for National Public Radio programming, jazz, and classical music. A full list of Kansas City radio stations can be found here.
**In Kansas City, A Prairie Home Companion is on KCUR 89.3 FM in Kansas City every Saturday from 5-7 pm and Sunday from 11 am – 1 pm.
***Pun intended. Teehee!

VIDEO: Grocery Bag “Koosh” Ball

Here’s another idea for a prop to use for movement to music or exercise, made with materials you probably already have on hand. (That means it’s FREE!!) When you’re done, you’ll have a lightweight, squishy ball that is easy to grab and throw, even for older adults with decreased hand and arm strength. (My 12-month-old loves it, too!)

This awesome idea comes from Peggy Lewis, my activity director friend who is full of great ideas for multi-sensory activities for people with dementia. She is the same activity director behind the post on indoor snow I shared last winter. 

For this project you’ll need a few plastic grocery sacks, a rubber band, and a pair of scissors. Watch this short video for the how-to:

Once you have your grocery bag balls made, you can pick out some great music for movement and exercise and try it out with this baseball-themed activity. Then, please come back here and let me know what you think!