Music Therapy and End of Life

No matter what your religious affiliation or beliefs are, the end of someone’s life can be a very spiritual experience. Music therapists are honored to be a part of this, usually receiving referrals from a hospice. In this stage, frequently our clients are unable to communicate what kind of music they prefer, so the music therapist must do an assessment, either by reviewing the medical chart or interviewing family and friends. Or when that information is not available, the music therapist must use clinical judgment to determine the best way to approach the client.

Since many music preferences are formed during our teens and twenties, the music therapist can select popular music from that time period, based on the client’s current age. Some clues come from the client’s lifestyle: if the client attended a specific church regularly, then they probably enjoy music that may be typically used at that church; if the client was not a regular church-goer, then some other type of music as therapy may be more useful.

Music therapy techniques can be particularly effective in this time of a person’s life for several reasons. You don’t have to participate actively in the music in order to be affected by the music. So music therapists can take clues from the client’s behavior, such as how fast they are breathing, facial expression, whether they seem restless or restful, to determine how the music should sound. Then the music therapist can present music that will help the client’s breathing slow and become more even or that will help communicate the presence of another caring human being.

If you are interested in learning more about music therapy benefits in hospice, then please contact me. I’d be glad to help.