Why include music therapy in hospice care?
Music therapy in palliative care provides a space for patients to grieve, to express, and to connect. The transition to the end of life can be difficult in various ways. Music therapy addresses emotional, cognitive, and social needs of hospice patients. Board-certified music therapists do this through musical interventions focused on creating, singing, moving to, or listening to patient-preferred music. In the hands of a trained professional, music can also be used to introduce themes of life and death, loss, change, and acceptance for processing with the client as appropriate.
Music therapy lends itself naturally to the patient's needed emotional support. Creating a musical experience together is a non-threatening way to bring connection and healing into the patient's life. Some sessions are focused on creating a joyful moment for the patient to relish in their last days. Some are focused on supporting the client in a present mood disorder. Some sessions are focused on relaxation and mindfulness. In appropriate cases, we also provide insight-based music experiences for patients who are struggling with loss of independence, changes in health conditions, grieving the loss of loved ones, or other difficulties that typically come towards the end of life.
Music therapy is used in supporting hospice patients who are actively dying. 11th hour visits are made per request of family or the patients themselves to aid in the patient's passing. Musical intervention in this case is focused on supporting the physiological decline through auditory stimulation, and promoting acceptance of the dying process.
Through clinical trials and music therapy research, the following benefits have been observed in hospice patients receiving music therapy services:
Decreased pain perception
Decreased levels of depression and anxiety
Release of repressed emotions and frustrations
Improved and renewed connections between patients and loved ones
Engaging in dialogue around experienced spiritual conflicts
Transcending suffering through enjoyment and connection
Gaining insight into their past accomplishments
Facilitating a healthy process of grief and bereavement for families and caregivers
Music therapy also assisted in softening and humanizing the palliative care setting during the patient's final moments of life.
Supporting the Hospice Team
Additionally, music therapy has been seen to be affective in addressing the grief response of hospice team members. Incorporating music therapy into the routine support for hospice team members can provide a safe place for processing grief over patients who have passed away, decreasing the likelihood of experiencing emotional burn-out.