Music Therapy in Hospice Care

When you think about music therapy in nursing or hospice homes, think about it as more than just music activities. Music therapy is actually a clinical use of music intervention by a certified music therapist and there are is a lot of evidence that supports it.

The aim of music therapy in a hospice setting is to assess the strengths and needs of the patient and to create a treatment plan that will utilize creating, singing, listening and moving to patient-preferred music. These sessions can be both individual or in a group.

Music is non-threatening, enjoyable and it is well-known that it enhances brain functions. So regardless of age, background, musical abilities (or lack of) can benefit from music therapy. Furthermore, music therapy can bind with other healing efforts in order to address physical, emotional, cognitive or social needs of the hospice patient.

Who can benefit from music therapy in a hospice setting?

Music therapy in a hospice setting provides benefits to all patients, but particularly to those who:

  • Experience isolation, loneliness, boredom due to lack of social interaction
  • Feel pain or symptoms that are difficult to manage through traditional methods
  • Suffer from some type of dementia and often feel anxiety
  • Have difficulties to cope or to accurately express their feelings or thoughts
  • Have physical or intellectual impairments that hinder their face communication
  • Require spiritual support together with other members of their family
  • Simply enjoy music and would like to improve their quality of life

Techniques used in Hospice Music Therapy

Music therapy applies various music activities and interventions. Sometimes the therapist will compose a song that will help the patient express their emotions; some patients will learn how to play the piano in order to improve their motor skills or even use music instruments in order to cope with emotions they cannot express.

Different benefits of hospice music therapy

Music as an artform knows no race, creed and culture, but it can impact us on a spiritual level. When we utilize different features and characteristics of music, music therapy in hospice promotes:

Higher self-confidence – Through positive social interactions with the music therapist, hospice patients get to learn new skills, regain motor skills and develop a better image of themselves. This positively reflects on the patient’s well-being and promotes a more positive outlook on their end-of-life journey.

Social interactions – Through love for a specific tune, artists or music stile, hospice patients can form strong bonds between each other. Social interactions, which can be daunting and difficult, now become much easier through the patients’ shared interest for music. Even patients that don’t usually seek to socialize with others, start to interact and form new friendships.

Different view on life – Expressing emotions doesn’t come so easy to everyone. However, through music therapy, hospice patients can easily express what they’re feeling, they can gain a new outlook on life, reminisce about their lives and look forward to the journey that is ahead of them. During those moments of introspection, many patients start their spiritual healing process, form new and healthier relationships with their family members, friends and loved ones.

Relaxation – Music is known to be a powerful tool to help us relax. And when we combine music with relaxation exercises, we will experience a level of relaxation that cannot be achieved by using only music or only exercise. Through music therapy, the therapist can clearly identify to what type of music the patient responses best and can utilize that to create a better relaxing environment.

Communication and speech – Both singing and speech are founded on the same oral motor skills like vocal intensity, breathing techniques and articulation. Through music therapy, patients can also improve their motor skills that might have been damaged due to their illness.

Better motor coordination – In order to improve the patients’ motor coordination, hospice facilities can use different tools and exercises. Music therapy, along with different music instruments, can also do wonders for the motor coordination and dexterity e.g. plucking the strings of a guitar, positioning fingers on piano keys and so on. Over time, these repeated motions can help patients have better control over their muscles and coordination.

Comfort for the whole person – Music can provide deep spiritual aid for those at the end-of-life journey. Through music therapy, hospice patients can embrace culture, remember old memories and create a truly unique therapeutic environment and experience that is specific for every patient. Through music therapy, all those that are involved in hospice care (caregivers, patient, family members etc.) can physically relax, mend emotional wounds and recharge.

Marta Gonzalez, a former ballerina suffering from Alzheimer’s has instinctively remembered the Swan Lake choreography she used to perform decades ago. This clearly shows how powerful music (and dance) can be and help us recollect and remember things from the past. You can watch the video here.

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