Music can heal in many ways. At Barnabas Health’s Hospice and Palliative Care Center in West Orange, N.J., musical favorites have brought joy and inspiration to residents nearing the end of life.
“We’ve had a phenomenal response,” says Mary Murray, RN, Clinical Educator for the hospice. Since MUSIC & MEMORY® was introduced at Barnabas last September, the program has not only enriched residents, but also boosted staff morale and volunteer involvement. “It’s a win-win-win situation,” she says, “something happy and uplifting in the hospice world.”
Take the experience of one man in his sixties, blind and a double amputee. “We created a list that included the Grateful Dead, Foreigner, a lot of classic rock-n-roll,” says Murray. “It made such an improvement in his quality of life. He wasn’t limited to listening to his TV 24 hours a day. He had his music.”
Hospices are among the most recent additions to the Music & Memory family. Settings vary from dedicated hospice facilities to hospice services within nursing homes to hospice care in private homes.
Musical Connection Enhances Final Days
Whatever the organizational structure, all share a common experience: Favorite music makes a world of difference for residents, their families and the professionals who care for them.
“We’ve had a woman dancing in her bed,” says Deirdre Downes, Corporate Director of Social Work Initiatives for Jewish Home Lifecare in Greater New York. “Families have something to do when they come into the room. They can turn the music on and engage with their family member. The music has been really beneficial.”
Even for young children, sharing music and helping to identify musical favorites can be a meaningful way to stay connected with a loved one at the end of life. According to hospice professionals at MUSIC & MEMORY® Certified Care Facilities, speaking on a recent conference call about best practices, kids enjoy sharing the gift of music with their grandparents, especially when they can meet in a private room and listen to songs together.
Generating a playlist has become an essential part of resident intake for some hospice programs. Families have the opportunity to share more personal background about their loved ones’ favorite music and activities as teens. As one conference call participant noted, “When we get them involved in creating a list for the resident, there is much more joy in the process. It’s so beneficial for end-of-life care.”
Caregivers at Home Gain Needed Respite
Reports from home-based hospice care are also enthusiastic. Conference call participants noted positive feedback from caregivers and family members, who appreciate how the personalized playlists bring joy back to their loved ones while also giving the caregivers a much needed daily respite.
Leadership buy-in to Music & Memory is always a crucial aspect of creating a successful program, whatever the care setting. Deirdre Downes says her facility was able to get significant funding by sharing stories with board members about how personalized music has benefited residents.
Saying “Thank You” Spreads the Music
“Our board really responded to the Henry video and stories,” she says. Social work student interns shared videos that they had made of residents and stories about how the program was implemented.
“Our Development Department has taught us that when you get a gift from the board, go back, say ‘thank you’ and tell them how you’re using it,” says Downes. That approach garnered a five-figure gift from a board member that will enabled the facility to purchase iPods for all residents as well as hire part-time help to set up the program.
To have music available for residents, especially when they are in their rooms for many hours toward the end of life, has been a great gift. “There’s no doubt,” says Downes. “People really respond to the music.”
Photo Credit: linh.ngan via Compfight cc
Founded in 2010, MUSIC & MEMORY® is a non-profit organization that brings personalized music into the lives of the elderly or infirm through digital music technology, vastly improving quality of life.