Hospice receives reverie harp


Instrument will help patients communicate

By Kari Lucin

Worthington Daily Globe

April 08, 2010

WORTHINGTON — A harp designed for therapy may help patients afflicted with dementia, deafness or weakness communicate with the volunteer helpers from Compassionate Care Hospice, thanks to a grant from the Worthington Regional Health Care Foundation.

“This is just going to be awesome for the volunteers, because they’re going to be able to communicate with their patients in ways they couldn’t have dreamed before,” said Leann Enninga, Compassionate Care’s volunteer coordinator.

The reverie harp, along with its case and tuner, cost $673, and already hospice patients and the volunteers who work with them are in love with it.

The harp is a small, lightweight, oval-shaped wooden instrument with no sharp edges, made to easily fit in a person’s lap. It can be plucked or struck with one’s fingers or an eraser-topped pencil. Because of its pentatonic tuning, it sounds good even when the person playing it has never touched an instrument before.

“It’s for the patients themselves to play. They don’t have to know anything about music,” Enninga said.

Volunteers can offer the harp to patients or even play it together with them. And even hard-of-hearing patients can hold the instrument to their head or chest to feel its vibrations.

Enninga brought the harp to one of her patients and asked if she’d like to play it. At first she was reluctant, but then she enjoyed the harp so much Enninga was reluctant to take it back.

“She was in a bit of a trance. She didn’t really have a lot of musical background, but taught music in a one-room schoolhouse,” Enninga said. “She had a very, very good time.”

In the two weeks since the harp arrived, other Compassionate Care patients have enjoyed the harp just as much as the very first.

The idea for purchasing the harp came when Enninga’s daughter sent her a newspaper article about another hospice program using the harp, filled with positive testimonials about how people benefitted from it.

Enninga went online to find Musicmakers, the Stillwater company making the instruments. During her research, she kept thinking about specific patients who could benefit from the harp and saw dozens of positive testimonials on the company’s Web site.

To make sure she was getting the whole story, however, Enninga called another hospice that had purchased eight of the harps and asked if there were any negative points about using the harps. After a thoughtful pause, the other hospice worker told Enninga “No, not really. It’s just been good.”

Enninga didn’t need more convincing. She contacted Bob Demuth of the Worthington Regional Health Care Foundation in order to request funds for the purchase of three harps.

“I said it sounds like a win-win situation for all of us. It’s good for volunteers and patients whose ability to communicate is quite limited,” Enninga recalled.

The foundation offered the funds for one harp, and Enninga sent for it immediately. On the very first day she got it, she felt like she could have written testimonials just like the ones she read online.

“I think it is going to be used a tremendously lot,” Enninga said. “… I’m excited about the potential. My goal is to be able to obtain some more … with anything new, it’s going to take a little while.”

For more information about volunteer opportunities through Compassionate Care Hospice, call Enninga at 372-7003.