Music has an incredible effect on the brain. It can help us recall an old memory or decrease stress; it improves our communication and uplifts our mood. For patients suffering from brain injuries or cognitive disorders, music therapy can play a major role in their treatment and rehabilitation.

Nobody understands the benefits of music therapy more than Brandon Atkinson and his family. In 2016, Brandon suffered from brain damage, becoming non-vocal and losing many of his fine motor skills. While in the hospital in Jacksonville, it was music that solicited his first reaction.

“When Brandon was first injured, he was in a blank stare, and music therapy was the first thing that got an expression out of him,” recalls Brandon’s mother, Nancy.

After Brandon left the hospital and came home to live with his parents, they knew they had to integrate music therapy into his recovery. Luckily, they could to turn to the VNA for help. The VNA is the only local organization that employs board-certified music therapists. In addition to music therapy, Brandon also receives occupational and speech therapy weekly to aid in his rehabilitation.

“Through the music he is able to do therapies such as occupational therapies, but he doesn’t feel he is working. He doesn’t even know he is working, he thinks it is fun,” says Nancy.

Brandon has been working with music therapist manager, Moreen Burkart, MT-BC, for many years, and he has made much progress in his daily life. Currently, Moreen uses interventions to help Brandon with his impulse control, concentration and improve his fine motor skills. Using a combination of tools, music and technology, Brandon applies the skills he learns with Moreen outside of their sessions. Nancy highlights that they have adapted one of the songs Moreen uses that helps with his concentration to assist Brandon with other daily chores and tasks like cleaning or brushing his teeth. “When we do the song, he does much better. The song makes him focus,” she states.

The need for music therapy continues to grow in our community. Recently, the program expanded its scope of care and serves more home health patients than ever before. Music therapy gives patients like Brandon hope, and continuing these services will be transformational for future patients.

The VNA Music Therapy Program is funded by the VNA & Hospice Foundation.