Visiting Musicians: Hospice Patients Need to Hear the Music Before They Can Ask For It.

Updated: Dec 22, 2019


The experience of one-on-one music is powerful

I volunteer to play my mountain dulcimer at a local Hospice Center on Thursday afternoons. I have learned many things about life, and music from my Hospice patients. Probably the most important lesson was discovering that, until people have actual experiences with live acoustic music, they do not think to ask for it, or think they would enjoy it. And, they even decline the offer to have some music played for them. Even the staff had to learn that the music I had to offer could be transformational as well as soothing.


When I started as a Hospice volunteer, some of the nursing staff, as well as some of the family members, were likely to tell me a patient was too agitated for me to play music for them. Even though I assured them that, as a certified music practitioner, I have a repertoire of music specifically for the agitated/anxious patient. It was not until the staff heard my music, and watched me actually relax patients, even putting some to sleep, that they started recommending patients for whom they wanted me to play.


On one particular day, one of the nurses cornered me as I was doing my paperwork. She told me she had delayed taking her lunch because, sitting at her desk, she could hear the music I was playing. She enjoyed it very much, and found it very relaxing.


Another nurse reported family members have started to comment about how much they appreciate the music.


Seeing might be believing in many situations, but where music is concerned, hearing the music and experiencing its power to comfort, is the key to having a vibrant music program at the Hospice Center.


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