Blog Category: Seniors

Hospice and Palliative Care: How Can Music Therapy Help?

What is hospice care?

Hospice care is a model for quality, compassionate care for people with a life-limiting illness or injury. It involves a team-oriented approach and includes expert medical care, pain management and emotional and spiritual support. The patient’s family and loved ones also often receive additional support as they confront their own feelings of anticipatory grief and bereavement.Music Therapy in a Hospice setting

Music therapy can be beneficial to patients in hospice or palliative care in a variety of circumstances and scenarios. Some ways in which music therapy can help include: pain management, enhanced communication, reality orientation, exploration of spiritual concerns, etc.

Many times patients in hospice are unresponsive or have very limited awareness of self or others. However, even patients in the later stages of illness have responded to the inclusion of music therapy, whether it be by a decrease in heart rate, more controlled respiration or moments of cognition.

The goals for patients in hospice care vary by case but often include addressing the five tasks of dying, music assisted life review, and decreasing the perception of pain, to name only a few.

Supporting caregivers of hospice patients

Music therapy also offers caregivers and family an alternative method of coping with their loved one’s illness or injury, as well as a forum to share common experiences. During this difficult time, music can help soothe grief while also providing a respite for the stresses of care giving for a terminally ill loved one. If a patient is cognizant and able to participate, music therapy sessions can provide them and their care givers a way to engage in meaningful time together. Music therapy is also an effective way to engage children who may be experiencing complex and big emotions that they cannot quite articulate.

A legacy project can provide a way for hospice patients and families to express their emotions. These projects can include audio/visual recordings, tangible gift giving or recording of original songwriting done in a music therapy session. These legacy projects offer patients a means to highlight their contributions to the world to share with future generations and are a treasured remembrance for families.

If you would like more information about hospice or palliative care, please contact us. If you work with an organization that provides hospice service and wish to explore adding music therapy services, please review this information sheet and contact us to discuss your needs.


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Magical Musical Moments: Seniors

By: Laura Micheli, MA, MT-BC

 Music Touches People of All Ages

In my work I am fortunate to encounter many “magical musical moments” with so many different people.

Photo of Laura Micheli, MA, MT-BC

Laura Micheli, MA, MT-BC

I’d like to share one particular moment working with a group of seniors with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. This particular group meets weekly for music therapy on the skilled nursing floor. There are 12 participants that join the group each week along with interchangeable staff members. The entire group, staff included, love the music therapy group! They sing the songs between sessions together, and have learned and utilized musical tools for specific individuals needs to support communication and positive behaviors. And it’s a mood booster for everyone!

One particular resident has had some great “magical musical moments” in the music therapy groups. She has later stage dementia and this has affected her communication abilities. She is generally very quiet, never initiates speech, and rarely answers questions verbally. Her peers notice her quiet nature. They say things like “Come on say something” or “She won’t tell you anything” and become frustrated by her lack of what they perceive as presence.

Music Can be Its Own Language

In our music therapy groups this woman is greeted by her peers in a supportive way because I, as the music therapist, model how we treat our peers of all abilities. Remarkably with music she can access her speech again. During one music therapy group I left a pause in the hello song I use every week where the lyric “beautiful” was supposed to be sung. She immediately sang music-for-seniors“beautiful” with just one pause. The other seniors smiled and cheered for her! From there she sang missing lyrics from all familiar songs and answered simple sung questions such as “How are you today?” Many of her peers commented after the session how wonderful it was that music could reach her in this way. Not only did she benefit from the musical stimuli but her peers saw her as a person again, something totally invaluable as a human being and especially as a human being with a disease such as dementia.

Her caregiver noticed such a difference in her when music was present that she purchased an iPod and asked me what music she should add to her playlists to help support and connect with her. Music is utilized throughout her day to connect with others and express herself. And this is just one reason why I love my job. I get to witness, experience, and create these amazing “magical music moments” that can change a life for the better.

If you are interested in learning more about how music therapy can benefit seniors, read more.

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