Song Spotlight: “If You’ve Got The Money, I’ve Got The Time”

  • Mood: Humorous, Spunky
  • Theme: Dating, Enjoying Each Other’s Company, Questionable Motives
  • Tempo: Upbeat
  • Genre/Style: Country

Several months ago, when I was visiting my grandfather in the hospital in western Oklahoma, I made a delightful discovery. In this particular moment, Grandpa was in and out of sleep, but Grandma was there, too, along with my mom and my brother, and we really just needed some way to pass the time in the hospital room.

I had brought my guitar along, intending to sing and play some of the old country and Southern gospel tunes my grandfather loved, especially those songs that were popular back when he was playing guitar in a band during his Army service. I asked Grandma and Grandpa what they wanted to hear, but they told me to play whatever I wanted. I tried a couple of old Protestant hymns – “In the Garden” and “The Old Rugged Cross” – but they were a bit too sad right then. Blinking back tears, I decided we needed some upbeat, silly song. A certain Lefty Frizell classic came to mind.

The Song

Lefty Frizzell

Lefty Frizzell

If You’ve Got The Money, I’ve Got The Time was Lefty Frizzell’s first song to hit number one on the country charts, debuting in 1950. Co-written with Jim Beck, this song comes from the voice of a not-so-wealthy suitor who is more than willing to go out with a date, as long as she can keep paying for the fun. With a tone that is certainly tongue-in-cheek, the singer ends each idea with the title phrase, until he gets to this part:

“If you run short of money I’ll run short of time
You got no more money honey I’ve no more time”

This is no tears-in-my-beer sad kind of country song, which is one reason I enjoy sharing it with folks, especially when it’s time to break down some tension or lighten the mood. (Of course, I would avoid sharing this song with someone who really did have a relationship with someone who just wanted their money.)

This song launched Lefty Frizzell’s successful career in country music. Later, this song hit number one on the country charts again in 1976, with Willie Nelson’s cover version.

Meanwhile, in a hospital room…

I really didn’t expect my grandparents to know this particular song. I honestly thought my grandparents’ interest in popular music stopped in the World War II years (which just goes to show how little even a music therapist might know about their family’s musical inclinations.) But wouldn’t you know that my grandma’s eyes lit up when I started playing this song?

I played a couple of verses, with my grandma smiling, and my grandpa perking up a bit. When I finished singing, Grandma told me that she had that single on a record when she was in college, and she recalled listening to it with her roommate while each of them waited for their dates to call or come by. Of course, at some point, her beau was the man who would become my grandfather.

My grandma neatly avoided telling us any more about her time dating Grandpa, but I cannot tell you how special this moment has become for me. All of a sudden, I had a new image of my grandma – or the young lady I’ve seen in pictures – chatting with a girlfriend and dreaming about that handsome young man I know from a couple of black-and-white Army photos. We had the briefest glimpse into my grandparents’ lives together before any of us were even imagined.

This marvelous musical discovery happened at a time when my grandfather was very weak and tired, just a few weeks before his death, and when my grandma was definitely tired and probably quite worried and in physical pain, although she would never let us see that. Sharing this song was one of those amazing experiences that I had hoped for but didn’t predict. It just goes to show that taking the time to discover those special songs can definitely be worth it.

Ideas For Sharing This Song In Caregiving

Theme – Country Courtship: This song fits well into country music playlists and can spark discussion about the artists (Lefty Frizzell or Willie Nelson) or about going to honky tonks. Some people may have stories about dating and courtship to share, especially if they grew up in the rural areas where this style was very popular.

Theme – Humor: This song would also fit well into a humor theme. Throw in some jokes and some other funny songs for good measure. In fact, I often include this song in sessions for April Fool’s Day. Other complementary country songs may include “Oh Lonesome Me,” “Act Naturally,” and “It’s Hard To Be Humble.”

Drumming: The most helpful aspect of this song’s structure is the last line of each verse, which is split into two parts (“if you’ve got the money honey/I’ve got the time.”) When drumming, split your group in two and have one half play on “if you’ve got the money” and have the other half answer “I’ve got the time.” Encourage groups members to look at each other as they play, like they are having a conversation with the drum.

Movement: You can use the same musical structure described above for movement to music, too, cueing participants to point out for “if you’ve got the money” and at themselves for “I’ve got the time.” Use the rest of the verse to cue other rhythmic movements, making more complex patterns for people who are higher-functioning.



Self-Care Isn’t Selfish

Last week, I had the honor of speaking about music for self-care at a Breakfast Club sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Association’s Heart of America chapter. This group of caregivers for people with Alzheimer’s disease gathers monthly at Research Medical Center in Kansas City, Missouri, to share a meal and provide support for each other in their caregiving journeys. Just from my one visit, it seemed like a very supportive community, where people could share their hardships and joys freely with others who understood. If you are in the Kansas City area, you can find more information here.I was there to share information about using music in caregiving, and especially about using music for self-care. We talked about choosing music for emotional and physical relaxation, exercising to music as a form of self-expression and stress relief, and how to practice techniques like deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation with music. After sharing all of this “how-to” information and including a couple of lovely experiences of music-assisted relaxation, though, I really think I left out a hugely important point:

Self-care isn’t selfish.Do you ever feel like this guy?

If you are a caregiver, you understand that two things are pretty certain to be part of the caregiving experience:

  1. Stress.
  2. Lack of time.

Constant worry about your care recipient, sleepless nights, changing behaviors and shifting moods, lack of support from family and friends, scarce time to yourself – all of these and more can be part of life as a caregiver. All of these stressors build up over months and years of caregiving, to the point where your own physical and mental health can start to suffer. Self-care must become part of the plan.

Maybe you object to this notion of self-care. “Oh sure,” you might say, “this is stressful, but stress is just a part of life. I can handle it.” Or maybe it’s, “no one else understands how Mom likes her dinner (or her bath, or her clothes, etc.) I have to be the one to do it.” Or maybe, “we’ve been married 60 years. How can I leave him now?”

The thing is, eventually, if you don’t take care of yourself, you will not only not be able to care for your loved one, but you may end up needing a lot of help yourself. It may feel selfish in the short-term to go out for dinner or take a nap while someone else watches over your loved one for a while. It may even feel selfish to take 10 minutes listening to music and breathing when there is laundry to be done and appointments to be scheduled. This isn’t true.

If you are putting in a lot of time and energy into caring for a family member or friend, then you are a caregiver. You need to take care of yourself, too. You cannot carry the weight of the world on your shoulders indefinitely.

Make the time for self-care, so that you and your loved one can stay healthier and happier for as long as possible.

What are your best ways to care for yourself if you only have 10 minutes? What if you had an hour? A day? Please leave your comments below.

Holiday Gift Ideas for Caregivers and Seniors

Red gift boxGift giving is a big part of the holiday season, but it is also a tradition that calls for some special thought and care. The good news is that you don’t have to spend tons of money or fill your loved one’s home with more stuff they don’t need if you put some special time and thought into the gifts you want to give.

I’ve included some of my favorite gift ideas for seniors and from seniors below:

Gifts for Seniors

With seniors, think about gifts that are useful, and making sure they know how to use them. I love introducing seniors to new technology and making it as easy as possible to use that technology. Here are a few ideas:

iPod. Music has always been important to access, and with an iPod, your loved one can easily get to any of the music in their collection, with a little help to get started. Speaking of which…

iPod lessons. Show your favorite senior how to use their iPod. Depending on their comfort level with the technology, you may show them how to use iTunes, or you might set up a few playlists for them so all they need to do is select and hit play. This costs nothing but could make a huge difference for your loved one.

Technology cheat sheets. Here’s another idea that costs next to nothing. Write out in very clear instructions how to use the iPod, how to check Facebook, or how to turn on the cable TV. Walk through the instruction sheets with your senior so you know your instructions are clear.

DVD Slideshow. We know that family pictures are precious. Load up a few dozen (hundred?) into your computer, create a slideshow, add some music, and burn to a DVD. Then your loved one can just put the DVD into their player and watch all of your beautiful photos. A digital photo frame is another great way to share tons of pictures with your loved one.

Gifts for Caregivers

With caregivers, think about the gifts you can give that will take away some of the stress of caregiving.

Frozen meals. New parents aren’t the only ones who love these. Make some meals that freeze well and store them single- and double-portion sized containers to be reheated quickly for an easy meal.

Housecleaning services. Christmas might be a great excuse to take this burden away from your favorite caregiver. My grandmother, who has been cleaning her own house for several decades, finally allowed some help with housekeeping a few months ago. Now she loves visits from the “Partners in Grime.”

Private duty homecare. Again, the holidays can provide a great excuse for getting your favorite caregivers started with some services they really need anyway. Private duty home care companies can provide any number of services to help seniors and caregivers get through the day, including transportation to appointments and events (or a trip to the museum!), light housekeeping, meal preparation, or companionship for the senior so that the caregiver can be out of the house for a while.

Double-Teaming. This is when you take your mom out to the movies while your son stays home with grandpa. Or you take your dad to the car show while your wife stays home to bake pies with your mom. Everyone gets some quality time together, and the caregiver gets a break from caregiving.

Gifts for Seniors to Give

I’ve spoken with seniors who really don’t know what to give the younger members of their families. They think they’re out of touch with what the kids might be into these days. Sure, you can buy the hottest new thing or give cold, hard cash, but these ideas are pretty awesome, too:

Record a video interview. I’ve written before about how precious a recording of your voice is. Making time to sit down with your loved ones and let them interview you on tape – that’s is unequivocally precious time in the moment, and a beautiful gift to leave for generations to come. (P.S. If you’ve done this before, don’t worry – there are always more stories to tell!)

Write down your special stories. One of the best gifts I ever got from my grandmother wasn’t intended as a gift. It was a three page essay about her experiences growing up during the Dust Bowl in Oklahoma, originally written for a researcher. I love those three pages.

Something special that belongs to you or that has been in the family a long time. A favorite photo, a piece of sheet music, something you’ve kept from when you were their age – it costs you nothing, and it can mean the world to your loved one.

You can give a wonderful, meaningful gift this season without breaking the bank. I’ve given a few of my ideas – what are yours? Please add to the list in the comments section!

A Creative Christmas Songwriting Experience

We needed dental floss to make our tree presentable. Creativity counts!

‘Tis the season to decorate for Christmas! My family and I will be trekking out to a tree farm this Saturday to find our Christmas tree, and we’ll be making ornaments and decorating the tree this weekend. We’ve already got lights up on the house (which my little girl cannot stop talking about!)

I am pretty excited about Christmas this year, and I am grateful for the time I’ll have to spend with my family. The holidays can be quite stressful, though, especially  when you’re missing loved ones, or when you’re trying to find meaningful things to do as a family when you can’t quite match the ideals portrayed by Hallmark. Sometimes it takes some creativity and spontaneity to get through a season that has too much pressure to be perfect.

So, in the midst of holiday preparations, why not stretch your creative muscles with a songwriting exercise? This is something you can do on your own or with the whole family – kids and grandkids included – and it can work well with your loved ones who have dementia or other cognitive challenges.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Start with “Deck the Hall.” You know that song, right? With the fa-la-la-la-las? Sing it through a time or two to remember the tune.
  2. Write a new verse about the decorating and Christmas preparations you are doing. Don’t worry about being a lyrical genius – we’re going for a personalized version here, not a top 40 hit. There is no pressure to be picture-perfect here, just an aim to try something new.

Here’s what a new verse could look like:

Decorate the house with lights and wreaths
Fa la la la la la la la la!
Put the Christmas tree up and hang the ornaments
Fa la la la la la la la la!
String some popcorn and put it on the tree
Fa la la la la la la la la!
Don’t forget the star on top
Fa la la la la la la la la!

(Underlined words are newly composed.)

That’s it! You could make up as many new verses as you like. If you want, write them down for posterity, or make a video to share with family and friends on YouTube. And don’t underestimate how precious the sound of your own voice is. This could be a special gift for your loved ones for years to come.

You could try a similar song re-write with many other Christmas songs. “O Christmas Tree” and “The Twelve Days of Christmas” have worked well for me and my clients.

Okay, now that you’ve done some creative exercise, maybe it’s time for a Christmas cookie?

P.S. If you do write a new verse to this song and want to share with the world, I’d love to hear how it goes! Please post in the comments section below.

Family, Festivities…and Failure

Last week I promised you a brand-new Thanksgiving song, and I did get it ready to record. I even have the accompaniment tracks done. But then the week of Thanksgiving, I got sick. Actually, my daughter got sick earlier in the week, and by Tuesday night, I’d caught whatever she had. I couldn’t sing. My voice still sounds like something a bullfrog threw up.

So, I didn’t get your new song done. I’m very disappointed to have let you down. I can probably have the song done in the next few days, but it won’t be the same, will it? I’ve missed the holiday.

This is the reality of caregiving, though. Whether you’re caring for kids, adults with special needs or chronic illnesses, or seniors, sometimes a health issue comes along that just throws a wrench into all your plans. You don’t want to let everyone else down, but you have to take care of your loved one, or let yourself heal.

It’s harder when you have to miss a special occasion, though. When you’re too sick to make your world-famous puffy pumpkin delight, or you can’t get to the grandkids’ holiday concert, or you don’t feel well enough to help decorate the Christmas tree when all of the family is over.

It’s hard, but it’s okay.

My psychologist friend Ann talks about having self-compassion, giving yourself the same level of understanding that you would give your loved ones if they were the ones who just couldn’t be there. There will be another day, another event, another chance to show your loved ones how much you care.

I’m giving myself some self-compassion this week. I’m sorry that I couldn’t be at the top of my game for Thanksgiving, but I know that I’ll feel better soon. Then I’ll finish that song!

Here’s wishing you a healthy dose of self-compassion today!

Musical Routine: Using Music To Help With ADLs

Helping seniors with their activities of daily living – ADLs – can be challenging, to say the least. You have probably experienced this yourself, but let’s take a moment to ask ourselves why ADLs can be so challenging, and how music can help.

Why ADLs Can Be So Hard To Complete

ADLs are those routine aspects of daily life that we all just have to do: dressing, bathing, fixing our hair, brushing our teeth, moving from place to place…and the list goes on.

Healthy adults probably don’t think about them too hard, but for folks with physical or cognitive challenges, ADLs become a big deal. In fact, losing the ability to do some of those activities is what calls for extra help in the first place, whether help comes from family and friends, from home care and hospice professionals, or from a move to some place with professional help in-house.

There are many reasons why ADLs can be such a challenge for seniors and for caregivers. They are different for everyone, of course, but some of these might be contributing factors:

Physical pain. Seniors and people with physical challenges often deal with pain, and even when their pain is well-controlled with medication, the work of completing ADLs can still hurt. In particular, because older adults usually have decreased range of motion in their extremities, tasks like dressing can be rather uncomfortable. It’s hard to be sweet when you hurt. Our job is to make it hurt less.

Feelings of shame. Especially for folks who are aware of their circumstances, the mere fact that they need someone to help with basic activities can feel really bad. Add on to that the fact that they may need help dressing or bathing – sometimes by someone of the opposite sex – and those daily activities can bring up powerful feelings of shame. It may or may not get easier to accept care. Our job is to give the highest priority to preserving dignity.

Agitation or aggression. For folks who are confused because of dementia or delirium, those feelings of pain or shame can turn into aggression – fighting back against the person who seems to be hurting them. You can imagine how difficult it must be to be going about your regular activities – reading the paper, drinking coffee – and then being wheeled into the shower room and made to undress. As difficult as it is, we cannot react to the senior’s aggression or agitation with our own irritation or anger. Our job is to understand what the senior must be feeling and to take steps to solve the underlying problem.

Difficulty following directions. People who are confused enough that they can’t complete their own self-care chores may also have difficulty following the caregiver’s simple directions to help. It gets more difficult to process verbal information in the later stages of dementia, and it becomes increasingly difficult to get your mind and your body to work together to get something done. This requires a LOT of patience on the part of the caregiver. Our job is to give clear directions and cues while staying calm and patient.

Add these together, and completing ADLs can be quite tough, for the senior and for the caregiver.

Music can help!

I’m not joking. In fact, I really wish more people knew this. Here’s how music can help:

Music communicates caring. Of course, eldercare must always start with caring, but for folks who are being asked to do something that is painful or shameful or just plain perplexing, the caregiver can seem more like a taskmaster than a loving, helping hand. Singing – no matter the quality of your voice – instantly communicates that you are a safe person.

Music maintains dignity. When you talk with someone about their favorite music, you are getting to know them as a person. When you put their favorite radio station on during bathing, you are creating an experience that is more spa, less hospital. When you use grown-up music to help with cueing a person who is confused, you are treating them more like an adult, less like a child.

Music supports routine. For people who are confused, music can be invaluable in signaling what is going to happen next. Not only can you set the mood for waking up, doing exercises, and relaxing in the evening, but, for example, you can use the same song before bathing every time as the introduction to the task at hand.

Music provides a vehicle for verbal instructions. We do this with kids all the time. (Sing it with me: “clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere…”) With some modifications, you can do this with adults, too. Try taking an adult tune and change the words. You’re giving verbal instructions within a musical structure that helps the senior to organize their thoughts long enough to complete the task, in a manner than preserves the senior’s dignity.

Music helps the caregiver stay calm, too. It’s really hard to grit your teeth and feel like yelling when you’re singing. The side effect of singing and playing music to communicate caring is that we remember how much we really do care, too.

One mental health professional I know described these ideas as “a diamond in the rough” for caregivers. These ideas are so simple and so natural to use in caring for the youngest members of our society, there is no reason why we can’t make age-appropriate adjustments to use these same ideas with the most senior members of our society, too.

Have you tried any of these methods with the people you care for? What has worked? What hasn’t? Please share your thoughts in the comments section!

Homemade Recordings for a Family Legacy (My Top 5 Tips)

A few months ago, my husband put a CD in our car stereo and said, “you’re gonna love this.” Click the link below to hear what I heard:

Great-Grandpa On Tape

What I heard were voices from my family’s past. My mother-in-law and her sister were kids back then, trying out a new tape recorder, when that was the brand-new technology. Their mom (my husband’s grandmother) was trying to convince her dad (my husband’s great-grandfather) to sing for the recorder. He demurred at first, but with some gentle cajoling, he gave in, showing off a yodel, then singing a few old folk songs, with Grandma adding in the harmony. This recording was nothing formal, just the family playing around.

But yet this recording is unbelievably precious. Continue reading

Determining Music Preferences – The First Step in Caregiving Through Music

Photo by moodboardphotography via

I’ve been asked several times recently to put together a list of tips for introducing music in a professional caregiving relationship. It turns out I could write a book on that subject. (And I probably will – stay tuned!) More posts will come in the future, but we should start at the beginning – determining your senior’s music preferences.

Why is this such an important first step? Decades of music therapy research have demonstrated that music preference is a determining factor in the outcome of many therapeutic interventions. What music is best for promoting physical relaxation? Client-preferred music. What music is best for engaging clients with end-stage dementia? Client-preferred music. What music is best for decreasing agitated behaviors among clients with dementia? Client-preferred music. While there are times when unfamiliar or non-preferred music is appropriate in a music therapy clinical situation, client-preferred music is usually the starting point in clinical music therapy. Client-preferred music is also the best starting point for caregiving through music.

So, how do you determine what music your client prefers? Continue reading

Skin Hunger and Caregiving Through Music

Have you ever heard of skin hunger?

This phrase came up during a presentation by Dr. Melita Belgrave, a fellow music therapist, at a recent meeting of the Kansas City Partnership for Caregivers. We have an innate need for physical contact with other human beings, and “skin hunger” refers to the problem we have when we don’t get enough. It’s a rather stark phrase that describes the problem exactly, and it’s an especially significant problem for older adults.

Just a few minutes ago, I put my baby daughter to bed. She has a cold, and she was having a hard time falling asleep on her own, so I rocked her to sleep, stroking her hair and humming quietly. When Alice was first born, we held and rocked and cuddled her constantly. As research dating back to 1959 and Harry Harlow’s infant monkeys has shown, babies need physical touch for healthy development. I don’t know of anyone who would deny this these days.

That need for touch continues for adults, but many people wouldn’t identify that as a major issue for themselves. Most of us have little problem getting the touch we need, whether from cuddles and hugs with our families, pats on the back from our co-workers, or simple handshakes with business acquaintances. Sure, we get a sense of what it’s like to long for another’s touch when our kids leave home or our spouses are away, but most of the time, we probably get the physical human contact we need. Continue reading

An Irreverent Perspective on Aging in “Older Than My Old Man Now”

You’ve already seen it in the title of this post, but if you wanted just one word to describe Loudon Wainwright III’s new album, it would be this: irreverent. Let me add a second word, and it would be this: realistic. And allow me a third? Brilliant.

I love finding music and other artistic works that address aging, caregiving, and end-of-life issues. (Click the “review” tag for all of my posts on this subject.) I think no matter their medium of expression, artists offer a different perspective than those offered by journalists or academics. I especially love works created by aging artists themselves, like Glen Campbell’s most recent album “Ghost on the Canvas.”

Where Campbell’s album comes across as a poignant and somewhat sentimental goodbye to a good lifetime, spiced up with a just a bit of defiance, Wainwright spits in the face of old age from the very first track of his newest album, “Older Than My Old Man Now.”  Two of my favorite songs are also two of the funniest. In “My Meds,” Wainwright relates the woes of taking all kinds of medications just to function, and in “I Remember Sex,” a duet with Dame Edna Everage, he recalls the mechanics of his love life in the way one might recall a dinner party.

You can’t help but laugh with these songs (and feel slightly uncomfortable, depending on who you’re listening with!) Wainwright’s style is humor, so I would hope that the music-listening public would expect nothing less from him now. This defies some persistent stereotypes of aging, though – the assumptions that old people inevitably become crotchety and mean, or that people over 65 are all sweet grandmas who work on their knitting in the rocking chair and bake cookies for the grandkids. It turns out that funny, sarcastic people stay funny and sarcastic as they age, too. Continue reading