Spreading the music: New Cedar Haven Activity Coordinator shares her music

Kiara Ristow brings the music to The Lutheran Home: Cedar Haven in Mankato, MN. Kiara, a board certified music therapist, began as an Activity Coordinator and Music Therapist in August.

She is the second activity coordinator, working with Becki Staley, to plan different activities and events for residents at Cedar Haven.

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Being able to share music with others, including Cedar Haven residents, is important to Kiara.

“Music is my bread and butter; I made it a priority to bring it here,” she said.

Kiara has started a music group for residents. Most of time, she sings and plays guitar. However, she has brought in recorded songs to play.

“I do a wide variety of music, from classic singalongs to country western, to hymns, to popular tunes from the 1930’s, ‘40’s, and ‘50’s,” Kiara explained.

Quite often Kiara uses the different seasons, holidays or things happening at that time as a focus for the music group. Earlier in September, she focused on a “back to school” aspect. Residents reminisced about memories from when they were in school and answered trivia questions which were tied into songs.

“Kiara has a calming and uplifting presence and everyone, residents and team members, look forward to the days she’s sharing her musical gifts,” said Administrator Elli Fuller.”

During one group, residents picked from autumn related songs which were written on cutout paper leaves. More recently, Kiara led the group in multiple toe tapping, polka like songs while discussing memories about Oktoberfest.

Residents have started to ask about her performances.

“Folks seem to be enjoying them because I’m frequently asked if I’m ‘singing today’ when I come around to say hello,” Kiara said.

Music can provide several benefits to the residents.

“It’s a mood enhancer, bringing smiles to faces during a song they haven’t heard in a long time, and residents socialize with each other as they discuss and reminisce whatever topic I’m focusing on that day,” Kiara said.

In addition to providing music groups, Kiara planned an event to recognize National Punch Day, on September 20. Using a few different punch recipes with different ingredients, Kiara and a couple residents make pitchers full of each kind. They provided samples to both residents and other team members.

The two favorites were a summer citrus punch and the caramel apple punch. The summer citrus was a combination of lemonade, orange juice, cranberry juice, and white soda with slices of orange and lemon. The caramel apple included apple cider mixed with caramel syrup, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon sticks and apple slices. Both were delicious! The third place punch was a fizzy pineapple punch.

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For another new activity, Kiara and residents have made flower arrangements to be used as décor throughout Cedar Haven. 

“We’ve been very fortunate lately to have received multiple donations of bouquets from Walmart and have made an activity out of arranging vases to put on the dining room tables, out in the living room, and in individual’s bedrooms, if we have enough,” she explained.