Music Therapy for Hospice Patients Delivers Benefits and Spurs Memories

There’s power in music therapy. Music provided by trained and certified music therapists is often incorporated into hospice care for its ability to deliver benefits to patients, their families and those who provide end-of-life care. VITAS® Healthcare, the nation’s leading provider of end-of-life care, employs more than 40 music therapists nationally.

Music can relieve anxiety and agitation, lessen pain, boost mood, promote deeper breathing, and facilitate communication, movement and emotional expression. For hospice patients nearing the end of life, music therapists provide and create moments of joy, peace and calming memories.
When offered to patients at the end of life, music therapy can work in combination with other healing solutions and services to address the physical, emotional, cognitive and social needs of hospice patients and their families.
Another benefit is music’s ability to give hospice patients a sense of choice and control—two factors they often feel slipping away.
Music therapists begin by assessing whether music therapy is appropriate for a patient. Sometimes, music can increase agitation and anxiety in patients with life-limiting illness. For many others, including patients who are unresponsive, music can trigger positive emotions and memories. As health declines, hearing is thought to be the last active sense, meaning that music can aid in relaxation and expression up until the moment of death.
Music therapy can take many forms. It can include music-assisted relaxation, musical imagery, song writing, group sing-alongs, one-on-one singing, vocal and instrumental improvisation, movement or dance.
Sometimes, a trained VITAS music therapist will use music as part of a patient’s life story—improvising or writing new songs, recording or videotaping a patient’s musical interactions, even creating a songbook that serves as a tangible memento for surviving loved ones and family members.
Far more than notes on sheet music or keys on a piano, music therapy is a valuable tool that provides physical, emotional and spiritual benefits to seriously ill patients as they approach the end of life.

Editor’s Note: Article submitted by by Robert Johnson, General Manager of VITAS Healthcare in Collier County. For more information about hospice care or end-of-life care options, call VITAS Healthcare at 866.759.6695 or visit