My time at Te Hopai: Celebrating the ‘musical moments’Music therapy is the use of music for non-musical goals. It can assist with the “healing and personal growth of people with identified emotional, intellectual, physical or social needs” (Music Therapy NZ). While music performers and entertainers can be therapeutic, music therapists have identified therapeutic goals and work on being with people in music and supporting them in a musical way to reach these goals. Music therapy is useful because it can address several areas at once: cognitive (including speech impairment), physical, communicative and emotional. There is a growing body of research regarding the use of music with dementia clients, and I am constantly amazed at how a person with dementia can often relate to music, sometimes singing with me even if they are usually non-verbal. I have also witnessed the power of music to calm and soothe a person, as well as be a tool to communicate with someone. With clients who have had strokes, certain neural pathways in the brain can be destroyed, including those used for speech. Music uses a more complex set of pathways which can help restore lost brain functions. The pathways can be connected and then reactivated through music. (This is why you may have noticed someone with a stutter can sing perfectly or someone who cannot speak can sometimes sing.) Below are a few of the meaningful experiences I have had: A male resident, whose eyes lit up when he saw the violin and has been playing it - this was a delicate situation as it could have made him more aware of what he could no longer do, but he seemed very intent on playing it. He was able to communicate quite clearly when he didn’t want my fingers on the violin’s fingerboard, or he would bow / conduct to indicate tempo. This seemed to be a meaningful experience for him. The last time I saw him, he was lying in bed and kept saying “thank you” after I played something to him. A male resident, who is able to sing, although he usually doesn’t speak more than a word at a time and has trouble getting out thoughts and ideas following his stroke. He has been working on musical phrases of communication with me (called Melodic Intonation Therapy). His wife said a few different people had been commenting that his speech had improved. I have observed that he is speaking more sentences. The looks that he gives me and the long handshake he gave me after singing to him at the piano says more than ‘thank you’ ever could! A female resident, who is always present in music. She can remember the words of all the familiar waiata she used to sing and often harmonises, even if she is no longer able to respond to questions or understand some of the words I am saying. When she is singing, she can be quite lucid and it’s as if she doesn’t have dementia; she is also more responsive and sometimes quite articulate after singing. She has said “it gives me hope” that I am learning Māori waiata - this sends a message that Māori is important and valued, and affirms her culture, identity and her connections with whānau. A male resident, who responded when I sang familiar Greek chant to him - his eyes opened wide and he started trying to sing and then tried to say something. It obviously meant a lot to his wife that he was able to respond in this way. She said, “See? He’s still in there”. A female resident, who no longer speaks but often vocalises - she can sing words when it is a familiar song. When we sang something together that she knew (‘Somewhere over the rainbow’), it was as if we were just two people singing together, not a music therapy student with a dementia patient. I think it must provide some level of comfort when things around you start to seem strange and you no longer recognise objects or people for what or who they are. A female resident, who is usually a positive person but has been unwell and was quite low in mood when I saw her two weeks ago. After engaging in music therapy, she said “I feel much brighter now”. Thank you for having me!


My name is Cathy Park and I am a very close friend of Ruth’s from Auckland. Myself and another friend Sheryl on a visit from Auckland met Ruth at Te Hopai. She came out to greet us looking fantastic and happy in a lovely white uniform. Ruth was just so happy working at Te Hopai and we want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for seeing in her all the qualities that made her the person she was.  She proudly showed us around, and introduced us to some of the residents and staff. It was plain to see why she loved Te Hopai. I believe I was the last person she spoke to her on the night before she passed away and she was so excited and happy to be getting back to work. She said that she was needed back at Te Hopai in whatever capacity she could manage. This meant so much to Ruth and got her through some very tough times in what was to be her last weeks. The whole time in those last weeks she didn’t want to let her work down, she loved her work and wanted to get back asap. Knowing how unwell she was, and living at a distance was very hard, so having a caring, supportive workplace meant so much to Ruth and us.I am so thankful that we visited her for a weekend a week before she passed. Even though very unwell her passion and energy shone though and gave us hope. That was her gift to everyone, especially those whom she encountered in her nursing profession. Her passing was a huge shock. Thank you again for making what was to be Ruth’s final place of work a wonderful experience.  Knowing her for over 55 years I know she would want you to know how thankful she was as she expressed this many times. She will be greatly missed by so many. Everyone at Te Hopai is so sad at Ruth's passing. It means so much that we were able to know her and to support her in her final days


‘Life Stories’ completed by Margaret have been a very powerful and valuable resource. I have read them in my ‘sharing stories’ sessions and residents, staff and family members have enjoyed learning about our residents and their history.These stories provide us with knowledge. We then have the information to have meaningful conversations and develop stronger connections with our residents.


I have this one resident who I know loves me but she cannot exactly remember how my name is pronounced.  Sometimes she calls me Christine or Christina but the funniest one is Christmas.  Whenever she calls out these names it’s understood that she needs me.  This one reason why I love working in Te Hopai.  Aside from the friendly environment from management to cleaners, we are also surrounded by lovely elderlies.


While being at Te Hopai, I have learned that old age doesn’t have to take away your creativity and giving. Staff are so kind and attentive.


During my placement, I have learned lots of things that enhance my knowledge and hone my skills. At long last I will be able to do now Nursing here New Zealand. It was a long struggle. It was October when I started my Competency Assessment Programme in Whiteria. This is the program required by the Nursing Council of New Zealand to ensure internationally Qualified Nurses able to practice and demonstrate the ability to meet the Competencies of being a Registered Nurse after the completion of the program. I was assigned in Te Hopai for my 6 weeks placement where I have worked for 2 years as caregiver. To be honest, Geriatric Nursing is not so common in the Philippines so it was all new to me. As a nurse doing totally different to what I used to is something exciting. An area of nursing that needs more to be recognised. During my placement, I have learned lots of things that enhance my knowledge and hone my skills. First, I was exposed to a culturally diversified workplace. I have learned to focus on what doesn’t work or what is different. Te Hopai have challenge me to appreciate the differences of others and see them as potential drivers of change. The place and the people I have worked with help me appreciate how every person has a different strength and realise that in that strength there is opportunity to grow and be more productive. Second, I have learned to be more empathetic and compassionate. My desire to work with aging patients was increasingly burning. I have seen an idyllic picture of beauty but also the daily reality that some of the residents faced - of being in pain, confused, unable to walk, tired, depressed and/or agitated. The true beauty of this picture lay in their ability to grin, joke, and relish the bright moments of their days. The human spirit is amazing, especially when it is resilient. By helping them, we respond to our innate humanity to nurture, be compassionate, to listen and to learn. I have developed to respond not only on the physical well-being of their patients, but also for their mental and emotional well-being as well. Lastly, I have learned to love nursing more because of this experience. It tug a heartstring in me from time to time. It challenge me to become more patient advocate. There are times in which the goal of healing the patient is supplanted by the goal of keeping patients comfortable while treating them with dignity and respect. I have learned to appreciate the works of caregivers and listen and take into consideration their observations and opinions. It develop my skills to be a leader and be more confident to myself. I have learned my boundaries, emotionally and physically. I was able to handle and bounce back from depressing events, such as the death of a patient. All of these experiences and learning made me ready to become a New Zealand registered nurse and for that I am grateful.


My experience at Te Hopai comes from a rare duality. I first learnt about Te Hopai through my Grandmother. As the years went by she made the decision herself to come into aged care. She did her research and chose Te Hopai due to its outstanding reputation. From admission to her time here as a resident, we found that Te Hopai lived up to its high reputation. A few years later after her time with Te Hopai I came to work here myself. Now that I am a member of staff,  I have come to see what goes into the making of the reputation and I continue to be both impressed and proud to be part of Te Hopai.


I enjoy being a volunteer at Te Hopai because the residents teach me something new every time I visit.  I feel proud and humble because I know my work is acknowledged by the residents because every Friday afternoon when I come in they are already seated at the table, waiting for me to start, bless them.  It’s a nice warm feeling to be appreciated and one of the reasons why I love working here.


Kowhai (Dementia Unit) has a culture of kindness and caring. We have a great team lead by Julie and Janine. We are all team players and we know and work to our strengths.


Kowhai has a family feeling, it is homely and welcoming.


Kowhai is a person centred inclusive place. We welcome family and friends who have a positive influence and impact on the Kowhai community.We support peoples interests culturally and spiritually.


My first impression of Te Hopai.As I stepped through the glass doors of Te Hopai for the very first time, a sense of calm descended on me.  A staff member came up to me with a lovely warm smile and proceeded to welcome me to Te Hopai. I discovered late that she belonged to the Diversional Therapist team. To this day, I have never forgotten my first introduction to what is still, for me, an amazing place.During my first week of work, an elegant elderly lady approached me and sweetly said, 'Excuse me dear but could you show me where the exit is?' 'Yes of course I replied' and walked her to the exit. Just as she was leaving one of the caregivers came up, took her hand and led her back inside. Suffice it to say that the same question has been asked of me several times over the past 2 years but I have never repeated my faux pas!


I'm never sure who has more fun - the dogs or the people.When I started bringing dogs from the SPCA they told me that Te Hopai was in a league of its own. They were right.It's a lovely place with caring staff and much happiness.


For the last year I have been helping people tell their life stories and I have thoroughly enjoyed it. People are so interesting and their lives so unpredictable. My contribution involves interviewing, recording and transcribing each person’s words and then writing up their accounts. Photos of people and places mentioned bring any story to life, so I try to find these from families or the internet and include them in the layout. Then all that is left to be done is to decide on an appropriate title and cover. The finished story is set out in a pocket file ready for printing if desired.It’s amazing how people underestimate the interest their stories hold for others. In some cases the events they talk about are even completely unknown to their children, and the details of domestic life, which the story tellers often regard as commonplace, may well be fascinating to their grandchildren.


When I arrived at Te Hopai as a volunteer art teacher; both the staff and residents welcomed me with their open arms of friendship.I have observed much love and caring in the daily interaction between residents and staff. Something new and different is encouraged, and I applaud those residents who have taken on the challenge of learning a new skill.The physical surrounding area is clean and tidy. The residents look forward to their meals with anticipation.The Owen Street unit has a good quality of light and it’s a pleasure to be there.