How to Create a Music Bubble for an Aging Parent in Rehab

by Barrett

Adding the sounds of Alexa and a comforting music playlist to a foreign environment can be a great gift to help maintain a sense of normal while away from home.

If you injure yourself and have to spend a chunk of time away from home in a rehabilitation facility, the experience can be disorienting. All of your daily patterns are disrupted and your tether to the normal is severed. Mentally, this can be hard for anyone, but I think it’s especially difficult for an older person.

Recently my father fell at home. Fortunately, he didn’t really hurt himself, but the fall weakened his legs, and he couldn’t move about with his walker.

So, my 89-year-old dad went to rehab to help him get stronger.

It’s been a slow process.

Dealing with the Unwanted Noise
I visit my father, smuggle in a diet coke and try to cheer him up. I talk with him and attempt to help as best I can.

I can’t pretend to really know what it’s like to be away from home like this.

That said, I feel one of the biggest disruptors is all of the uncontrollable background noise. Much of it comes from TVs that drone on nearby.

Sound Bubbles
At home, my father loved to play music on his voice-controlled smart speaker I bought him a few years back. In fact, he blanketed himself through much of the day with familiar old-time tunes.

He could easily control the soundtrack by simply talking with Alexa. (Okay, sometimes he might yell at Alexa.)

He had always enjoyed listening to music while I was growing up. His 8-track tapes and Sony record player system later gave way to his collection of CDs. Technology was his tool to help maintain his own sound bubble in our New York City apartment.

Music has always been a fundamental part of his daily experience.

Even though my father is now hard of hearing, he hears his music just fine. It has continued to permeate through his whole body thanks to Alexa.

Adding a Voice-Controlled Smart Speaker
I sat next to my father as he rested in his rehab-center bed, and suddenly it came to me. Why couldn’t I recreate his music bubble for him in this place?

It had Wi-Fi for its guests to use. So that critical piece was in place.

When I asked the nurse about installing a Wi-Fi music speaker, she replied that guests are allowed to have radios. So an Alexa device would be okay too.

So, I ordered a small Amazon Echo Dot for $25 along with an extension cord for easier installation.

And I headed back to see my dad.

The set up through the Alexa app on my iPhone was a snap. I quickly got a Frank Sinatra playlist up and running on his new Echo Dot positioned on the table next to his bed.

I was a little concerned how the music would blend with all of the other unwanted audio encroaching on his space. But I’ve got to say the resulting mix was okay. The music became the main track, and everything else turned into more a background buzz.

My father’s sound bubble was back!

The Healing Nature of Music
Alexa has been back with my father for over a week, and the reunion has been great.

He hasn’t talked so much about it with me, but everyone who’s been working with him is delighted with its impact.

His physical therapist told me that my father is happier and more like himself when the Echo Dot is playing his favorite jazz from the 1940s.

And all of the nurses I’ve met on the floor agree that using the Echo Dot as a Wi-Fi music player is a great idea.

Replace the Soundtrack
I feel like I’ve made some kind of massive discovery. (Of course, I haven’t.)

But if you’ve got an aging parent away from home, adding in a small smart speaker to the unfamiliar environment can be a really smart value add. (This is especially true if it’s difficult to reach a radio.)

Thanks to these relatively inexpensive voice-controlled devices, curated music bubbles are super simple to create.

I highly recommend it.