Music Therapy Benefits in Hospice Care

A Music Therapy Case Study | Joshua Gilbert, MT-BC

Throughout life, song can positively affect us both physically and emotionally. It influences bodily functions that we believe are beyond our control, such as heart rate, blood pressure and release of the body’s natural pain relief chemicals. Music therapy offers significant benefits for patients, caregivers and families. We offer it as part of our hospice services.

In a case study conducted (by Joshua Gilbert) on the impact of music therapy over a four-month period, with an older adult in hospice care, results exhibited significant signs of improvement in the following categories:

  • Quality of life
  • Self-esteem
  • Emotional expression
  • Breathing patterns

Through involvement in music-based interventions, these improvements allowed the patient to benefit from music therapy during hospice care. The patient often smiled, laughed and made positive comments about the music. After participating in deep breathing exercises and harmonica playing, the patient’s breathing became deeper and less labored. Additionally, the patient developed increased confidence in improvising harmonica music, and more open about expressing her emotions surrounding death.

Despite patient status or level of consciousness, music therapists can console and comfort them through music. Research has shown hearing is the last outside sensation that registers with a dying patient. Let us help your loved one make this experience more soothing.

To read the full case study, please click here.

Music Therapy: More the Merrier

Cheryl has the ability to help clients avoid depression and anxiety, thanks to music therapy. She says a husband/wife duet began asking family members and neighbors to join in their music. Numbers grew each music therapy session. By Thanksgiving, 40 family members had rearranged their holiday schedule to participate in Cheryl’s music therapy session. They showed up with their favorite musical instruments, ready to jam and enjoy each other.

“It was an activity they could all do together! It really stuck with me,” says Cheryl. “ I told them the more the merrier and they took me to it.”

Cheryl uses music therapy to ease her patients’ anxiety and reduce pain. I ask my patients questions like: “How can I help you socialize with other people in this new facility?” “How can I help you make friends?” If I have a patient who is not responding to me, I’ll use family as resources by asking for the patient’s favorite childhood song or lyrics that hold special meaning.

For more information on Premier’s services, call us, anytime. We’re available 24/7.
(317) 844-8700

Premier Hospice Music Therapy

“Still Music Within” written by one of our talented Music Therapists…

In his last month of life, *Bob became very anxious, sensitive to touch, and began to withdraw. His ability to interact was diminishing. One day when I arrived, his eyes were half closed and drool was being tenderly wiped off his lips by one of his concerned daughters. With my guitar in front of him, I began to sing his anthems. After a few minutes, he lifted up his hand ever so slightly and began knocking his knuckle on the guitar in time with the music, and then occasionally strumming a few strings along with me. His weak voice offered quiet, mumbled words of song. His body was beginning to fail, but he still had music left to play. Watching our interactions, his family members became more relaxed and began sharing positive memories, laughing together.

Our final visit together will stay in my mind forever. Bob was resting, as most of his time was spent near his final days. I slowly introduced music to help him become more alert, and his wife joined us at his side. Bob couldn’t keep his eyes open, nor his head up for more than a few moments at a time. Bob’s wife and I sang the songs that initially fueled our connection months prior. Our session was brief, as I could tell he was very tired. As I was about to say goodbye, those big eyes opened once again as he smiled and began to sing on his own “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine / You make me happy when skies are blue / You’ll never know dear how much I love you / Please don’t take my sunshine away.”

Music Therapy in Hospice

As a music therapist working in hospice, each day holds a different experience. The experience above is just one tiny portion of the work I am privileged enough to be a part of on a day-to-day basis. Music therapy services range from brief, one-time sessions, a few months, or even over a year, and continues to be available to the patient and their family through bereavement after the patient passes. I strongly believe that “music therapy can make the difference between withdrawal and awareness, between isolation and interaction, between chronic pain and comfort, between demoralization and dignity” (Barbara Crowe, MMT, MT-BC).

At Premier Hospice, we provide valuable care for those facing life-limiting illnesses, and maintaining dignity is of the utmost priority. A credentialed music therapist works alongside physicians, nurses, home health aides, chaplains, social workers, and volunteers – who are each dedicated to maintaining comfort and quality of life.

Music therapy is an evidence-based healthcare profession where the credentialed therapist uses individualized, live-music interventions to address the unique physical, emotional, cognitive and social needs of individuals of all ages and backgrounds. Our unique training and education in music and the human experience enables us to work with individuals at an intimately therapeutic level.

*Names have been changed to protect PHI according to HIPAA regulations.

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