The ultimate caregiver’s playlist

By Donna Thomson

Music is often the soundtrack of our lives. Particular songs evoke memories of personal pain, triumphs, love, commitment and maybe a broken heart. Other tunes just make us happy by prodding us to smile and dance. Caring for another person is a journey full of some of the greatest dramas in our lives, so I asked readers to tell me about their playlists.

I was astounded by the response. Everyone wanted to describe how music made caregiving easier…. or how the silencing of it was necessary.


Bob Harrison blogs for The Caregiver Space about his years caring for his adored wife, Annie. I was so touched when he told me that the day Annie was diagnosed with cancer was the day that for him, the music died. But he has songs of grieving on Annie’s beautiful memorial page.

Terena, a member of The Caregivers’ Living Facebook page said this: “I have a ” theme songs” playlist I play when feeling overwhelmed. Moby’s “We are all Stars” and George Michael’s, “Freedom” are two faves. And when I’m really stressed out I play “Tightrope” by Janelle Monae.”  (I love Terena’s taste in music!)

Lara cares for her son who requires complex care. She’s got a ‘Battle Playlist’ for days when she’s fighting for services or funding. Songs like Brave by Sara Bareilles, Fight Song by Rachel Platten and I Won’t Back Down by Tom Petty are highlights.

And lots of research shows that music aids in healing – in one scene of “Alive Inside” (2014), a documentary film about care and music, a nursing home care worker offers headphones to a wheelchair-bound man named Henry. When Cab Calloway’s voice wakes Henry, he comes alive. This extraordinary moment from the film is available on YouTube, and has been viewed more than 2m times to date.


So with this potent evidence of music’s power to uplift, heal and speak our emotions, here’s a playlist for natural caregiving that’s on my phone and I’d like to share with you. We need the healing power of music too!


1)   Breakfast Can Wait – Prince

2)   I’ll Be There – The Jackson Five

3)   God Only Knows – The Beach Boys

4)   Lean on Me – Bill Withers

5)   You’ve Got a Friend -James Taylor

6)   It May be winter outside (butin my heart it’s spring) – Love Unlimited

7)   Piece of My Heart – Janis Joplin

8)   Roar-  Katy Perry

9)    I Will Survive – Gloria Gaynor

10) Uptown Funk – Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars

Donna Thomson cares for her son who has disabilities and for her mother (95). She is the author of The Four Walls of My Freedom: Lessons I’ve Learned From a Life of Caregiving (House of Anansi Press, 2014) and blogs regularly at The Caregivers’ Living Room ( Donna advises governments, care providers and researchers on making health systems more accessible and user friendly for patients and families.