Hospice music therapy gently relaxes loved ones

Posted by Beth Briggs, Music Therapist

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.

When I asked Chester about Edith's preferred music or what type of music she may find comforting, he grinned and said, “Anything old!”

I then provided live music by singing and playing my guitar to enhance the relaxing and supportive space as Edith rested.

I was mindful of song choice, volume, tempo, articulation, meter and other musical elements to best support Edith's energy and breath, and to promote continued feelings of relaxation.

I provided familiar and improvised music.

Chester held and stroked Edith's hand as I sang love songs like "Let Me Call You Sweetheart." Chester became tearful at times, but remarked that the music, “...is what we needed.”

I also shared hymns and songs of reflection. I facilitated light conversation and reminiscenced with Chester, to honor their journey and witness his release. Soon, he too dramatically relaxed.

Edith's head then rested back against her chair and she breathed through an open and relaxed mouth. Chester closed his eyes and appeared to drift in and out of moments of rest or light sleep.

I was honored to visit this loving couple. It was clear that Edith was sleeping and physically relaxed during this time. However, her husband was initially alert and worried.

Through music therapy he was given the space and opportunity to show his love and affection for his wife, and was gently led to a more supported and relaxed state.

We are privileged to serve not only our patients, but their loved ones as well.

Learn more about JourneyCare's music therapy and music-thanatology programs. 

Note: Names have been changed. 

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