The Trager Institute recently began offering a six-part drumming series dedicated to the caregivers.
The Trager Institute recently began offering a six-part drumming series dedicated to the caregivers.

The UofL Trager Institute provides several programs and services to help aging patients and their caregivers achieve health and wellbeing.

Some of these include yoga and tai chi classes, nutritional counseling and acupuncture. Recently, the institute also began offering a six-part drumming series dedicated to the caregivers. The current series ends June 13, but the institute plans to host the series again at some point this year and, in fact, hosts the program a few times each year.

According to Payton Kruer, Trager’s caregiver program manager, the somewhat-new series has generated a positive response thus far from participants.  

“The drumming series was brought to Trager as a fun, whole-person strategy that promotes socialization and offers a healthy, non-strenuous workout,” she said. “On a deeper level, it builds bridges while fostering nurturing, support, camaraderie, self-respect and respect for others.”

Kruer adds the program is not about drumming, but rather using the drum as a tool for communication and personal expression. Drumming circles have been also proven to reduce stress, boost the immune system and increase energy, release negative feelings and create a sense of community. One peer-reviewed published research study conducted on long-term care workers demonstrated a 46% improvement in mood disturbance (e.g. depression, anxiety and anger) from such programs.

Using drums, and music making in general, has been a healing technique for ages. Trager began incorporating HealthRhythms model into its services about two years ago. HealthRhythms was established about 15 years ago and has since been used by more than 3,000 trained facilitators around the world. Locally, it proved successful with the Kentuckiana Regional Planning and Development Agency and the agency’s former director of social services, Barbara Gordon, introduced it to Trager when she was brought on board as the director of community engagement.  

Trager employees, including Kruer, and Kennette Rightnour, FlourishCare specialist, have been trained on the HealthRhythms program and have been conducting the drumming series for the past two years. Each series is six weeks.

“Something that was not an expectation I had when I was trained is that every group is different. We’ve gotten to do it with a few different populations, age groups and locations and each group has a different way to approach the drums and making music together, thus creating a new and inventive sound that amazes me each time,” Kruer said.

Trager has partnered with a few local agencies, including the AARP and the VA, to offer the program to caregivers in the community. Kruer said the caregivers enjoy having a safe space to express their daily emotions openly as they care for their loved ones.

“By utilizing HealthRhythms, we have an opportunity to not only utilize the program for our wellness for an hour but give people the tools to use music on their own in the future for self-expression, self-care and any other benefits they may feel after the series,” Kruer said. 

The drumming series also fits into Trager’s overall programming. Kruer said the institute is working to increase its wellness services, all of which are updated regularly on Trager’s social media channels.