Music brings peace to hospice patients

Have you ever heard a song and had it take you back to a certain time and place? Music can have profound effects-it can make you smile, dance, or even move you to tears. For hospice patients, music therapy can help them relax and put them at ease. At McLaren Hospice, music therapy is a complementary therapy available to patients and their families. 

Elizabeth Heffron is a music therapist for McLaren Hospice in Lansing. Speaking about music therapy and its benefits, she explains, "The main goals of music therapy are to decrease depression, isolation and loneliness. Sometimes we try to ease restlessness or confusion; there is a lot we can do with music therapy."

Music therapistHeffron further shares, "I service a lot of patients with dementia, so many of my interventions revolve around decreasing confusion and providing spiritual support." She also explains that music therapy benefits more than the patient-it benefits their families as well. 

McLaren Hospice volunteer services supervisor, Matt Meeuwse, expresses his experiences watching music therapy in action. "I have seen people with Alzheimer's recall memories from their past when music is played. Their mouths move with the music. I have seen the tears of joy from families witnessing this because although their loved ones may not know what is going on from day to day, it is the music that can bring back memories and connect patients back to their families or sometimes even their childhood."

"Music therapy brings joy, comfort, and quality of life to our patients and should be utilized for more than just those who enjoy music. It's not just entertainment-it is therapy," Meeuwse adds.

Heffron explains what her typical day looks like, usually seeing between 5 and 6 patients a day. "Each visit is unique and tailored to the patient, and each patient's preferences are taken into consideration. If the patient really enjoys rock music or hymns, we always try and incorporate that into the visit."

"I play guitar or use my voice. If the patient plays the piano, I will bring in a keyboard. The communities I visit will often have a piano in the common room, and I'll also use that. If my goal is to decrease confusion or facilitate access to memory, being able to play piano can bring back a patient's memories," she adds. 

Research has shown music therapy has many benefits: it can help alleviate patients' anxiety regarding end-of-life, help them express their emotions, improve mood, quality of life, and help make patients comfortable. 

To learn more about music therapy services at McLaren Hospice, please call (810) 496-8757.