Music Therapy for Hospice Patients

Music therapy is more than a music activity in a nursing home or hospice facility. It is the clinical and evidence-based use of music intervention by a board-certified music therapist. It assesses the strengths and needs of the patient and designs a plan of treatment that includes creating, singing, moving to, and/or listening to live, patient-preferred music within individual, group and/or family sessions.

Because music is non-threatening, enjoyable, and enhances brain function, people of diverse ages, backgrounds, and abilities can gain therapeutic benefits through music therapy. When offered to those near the end of life, music therapy can bind with other healing efforts to address the physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of hospice patients. While not appropriate for every hospice patient, music therapy can be surprisingly effective with an otherwise unresponsive patient.

Who Can Benefit from Hospice Music Therapy?

Music therapy provides the most benefit to patients who:

  • Lack social interaction or sensory stimulation
  • Experience pain and symptoms that are difficult to control through traditional medical interventions
  • Feel anxious or are affected by dementia
  • Look for a concrete way to cope or to define or articulate feelings or thoughts
  • Face communication problems due to physical or intellectual impairments
  • Need spiritual support, possibly involving other family members
  • Enjoy music to enhance their quality of life or maintain dignity

What Techniques Are Used During Music Therapy?

Music therapists draw from an extensive array of music activities and interventions. For example, the therapist and patient might compose songs to help express feelings; a patient might learn to play the piano to improve fine motor skills or use musical instruments to cope with unspoken emotions.

Music therapy is not available in every VITAS location. Please contact your local program for more information.

*VITAS does not own the rights to this music.

Frequently Asked Questions About Music Therapy

At VITAS, we surround patients and their families with services and resources for quality of life near the end of life.


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