Music, a universal language in life and death

Music, a universal language in life and death

Drawing on their musical and clinical palliative care training, music-thanatologists use harp and voice to address physical, emotional and spiritual suffering at the end of life. Using music prescriptively, they vary the tempo and tone of music to respond to changes occurring in a patient's body, like a slowing of pulse and breathing, in the final hours of life. During their visits — music vigils — they alternate sound and silence to help patients and loved ones relax and rest.

Music connects us universally. Some will say that it is music that makes us human.

Anthropologist John Blacking in his 1973 book, “How Musical is Man?” bemoans that Western culture music has become the domain of the so-called “experts.” However, when examining the cultures he had studied, music was simply a part of a person’s everyday life.

Music is part of everyone.

All living humans have the tempo of their heart rate and the depth of their respiration rate. But as we die, these mostly lyrical and robust waves change; with a shorter ambitus, a gurgling texture overlaying the breath, and a barely perceptible pulse. How can the living relate to this change, especially we when we in our technology-driven culture, don’t see ourselves as experts in either death or music?

‘Project Runway’ alum Peach Carr talks JourneyCare’s fashion-forward fundraiser, Allstars of Project Runway

‘Project Runway’ alum Peach Carr talks JourneyCare’s fashion-forward fundraiser, Allstars of Project Runway

At Sharing Our Journey, we are thrilled about JourneyCare’s upcoming Allstars of Project Runway fashion show on Saturday, June 29! This fashion-forward event will feature five designers from TV’s “Project Runway” unveiling their 2019 collections at Theater on the Lake in Chicago. Proceeds will benefit JourneyCare programs for patients living with serious illness.

To share more about this brand-new event, we chatted with former “Project Runway” contestant Peach Carr, who will feature her couture in this unique event and serves on its planning committee. Here’s her inside look at “Allstars of Project Runway”:

How can grownups support grieving children?

How can grownups support grieving children?

Losing a loved one is difficult for anyone. For children, grief is experienced differently and every child grieves in his or her own way. As an adult, you serve as a role model to the children and teenagers in your life. By encouraging them to express their feelings, you can help them build healthy coping skills through the grieving process and for the future.

Learn how you can help the children in your life through the grieving process with these helpful tips in mind:

Hospice massage therapy: A gentle touch for body and soul

Hospice massage therapy: A gentle touch for body and soul

As a Massage Therapist for JourneyCare, some of the most inspiring patients begin as the most challenging.

I cared for a hospice patient named Bill, who was a very large man and a former horseshoeman. His wife Betsy called him, “My gentle giant.” I could see he was strong in his day, especially by his rough and calloused hands. He was fading now with the complexities of being bed bound for many years after a stroke. The right side of his body was lame and very constricted.

Betsy told me that Bill had done everything from farming to raising sheep, cattle and dairy cows — he had done it all. Both of them had been hard workers all their lives.

Veteran hospice volunteers: Each one a hero

As part of the We Honor Veterans partnership with the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) and the Veterans Administration (VA), military veterans volunteer to visit JourneyCare hospice patients who are also veterans and have a special and meaningful bond that only those with military experience share.

Last year JourneyCare cared for nearly 1,200 veterans across our 10-county service area. Each veteran patient in our care has the opportunity to be honored by a JourneyCare hospice veteran volunteer. A brief but meaningful pinning ceremony is performed, and a certificate of honor is presented by a member of our Veteran Volunteer Advisory Council, which engages veteran-centric event planning, training and educational opportunities.

For the JourneyCare veteran volunteers and Veteran Volunteer Advisory Council members, the days, hours and minutes that lead up to a pinning ceremony for a veteran in hospice care invite contemplation. 

Our hospice veteran volunteers chose to serve a cause greater than their selves. They saw their country threatened. They signed up to confront the threat. They felt some tug, they answered some call, and they said, "Let’s go." That spirit that says, “When my country is challenged, I will do my part to meet that challenge.” 

Photos for her children: the wish of a young mother in hospice

On a recent Tuesday morning, Noreen, a JourneyCare volunteer at Pepper Family Hospice CareCenter, was sitting with a newly admitted hospice patient named Stephanie, to keep her company. Stephanie was a young mother in hospice care with four small children. 

Stephanie expressed acceptance that she was very near the end of her life and shared her sadness that her children would forget what she looked like. 

Stephanie told Noreen she had written cards and notes for her children, but she wished she could have professional photos taken so her children would have nice pictures to remember her.

Celebrating National Nurses Week: Betsy’s Story

Celebrating National Nurses Week: Betsy’s Story

We're celebrating National Nurses Week and all of JourneyCare’s extraordinary nurses! Social Worker Nancy Peter shares how JourneyCare Nurse Betsy Brennan exemplifies the dedication, expertise and compassion of our entire JourneyCare nursing team!

I was asked to write a blog about National Nurses Week and feel honored to do so. I’d like to share about an amazing Registered Nurse (RN) who works at the Pepper Family Hospice Care Center in Barrington, Betsy Brennan, RN, CHPN. Her experiences reflect so much of what nursing is about that it translates to all our wonderful JourneyCare RNs.

A new view through hospice art therapy

A new view through hospice art therapy

Barb had been an active, independent and social woman who was now bedbound in the home where she raised her family.

At 94 years of age, she primarily depended on her adult son and hospice team for her care. Barb’s family was planning to move her from her home to a nursing facility, which brought on anxiety as well as feelings of sadness and hopelessness. 

Her hospice care team recommended art therapy to help elevate her mood. I was Barb’s art therapist.    

Hospice music therapy gently relaxes loved ones

Hospice music therapy gently relaxes loved ones

I recently provided a music therapy visit to a woman named Edith, a 91-year-old hospice patient with dementia and depression. When I arrived, she was reclined in her padded geriatric chair with her feet supported and a blanket covering her lap. Her eyes were closed, and she looked relaxed and content. The room was quiet.

Her spouse Chester was present and his face appeared tired and tense. When I offered them a music therapy visit, he loudly replied, “Yes! I think that would be good! You never know what she’ll do!”

He shared that his wife was a singer, and although we did not suggest or expect her to sing or otherwise actively engage in the visit, we hoped she would hear us and know she was loved and not alone.

How bereavement camps help grieving kids

How bereavement camps help grieving kids

“What can I do to help?”

That question often weighs on the minds of the parents or guardians of a grieving child.

Some children instinctually express their emotions through verbalization, art, music and play. Other children need guidance on how to express feelings of grief and loss.

“It is helpful to children when the adults in their lives provide opportunities to acknowledge the grief everyone is feeling,” The National Alliance for Grieving Children states. “It is also helpful when children can gather with peers grieving similar situations.”

Bereavement camp is a place where children can meet other kids who are facing grief, and are given the opportunity to bond and process loss with them.

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