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A Music Therapy Case Study | Joshua Gilbert, MT-BC Throughout life, song can positively affect us both physically and emotionally. It influences bodily functions that we believe are beyond our control, such as heart rate, blood pressure and release of the body’s natural pain relief chemicals. Music therapy offers significant benefits for patients, caregivers and families. We offer it as part of our hospice services. In a case study conducted (by Joshua Gilbert) on the impact of music therapy over a four-month period, with an older adult in hospice care, results exhibited significant signs of improvement in the following categories: Through involvement in music-based interventions, these improvements allowed the patient to benefit from music therapy during hospice care. The patient often smiled, laughed and made positive comments about the music. After participating in deep breathing exercises and harmonica playing, the patient’s breathing became deeper and less labored. Additionally, the patient developed increased confidence in improvising harmonica music, and more open about expressing her emotions surrounding death. Despite patient status or level of consciousness, music therapists can console and comfort them through music. Research has shown hearing is the last outside sensation that registers with a dying patient. Let us help your loved one make this experience more soothing. To read the full case study, please click here.

Grieving for loved ones who are experiencing a life-limiting illness is natural for families and friends. This process can often begin before death occurs. Hospice of the Midwest Bereavement Services are available for those who are coping with losing a loved one. Our staff is committed to working closely with families who are working through the grieving process. Our services include: Our support is available to families for up to 13 months following the loss of a loved one. We also host monthly support group sessions at our Hospice of the Midwest locations. Support groups offer families and friends a platform to share their experience with others in the community who are facing similar situations. Our services don’t stop once your loved one has passed. We are committed to helping families and friends of patients even after they are gone. Please contact us for more information about our Bereavement Services.

“Carol LOVES cats!” Community Liaison for Hospice of the Midwest, Nick Blees stated as he asked if we had a therapy cat and volunteer to visit Carol. Volunteer Lynnette had just the right cat, Noodle, to visit with Carol in her last weeks of life. Lynnette sat nearby as Carol would pet noodle, over and over again. Nick said, “I had learned of Carol’s love for cats and that she had to give hers up when she moved into the memory care unit. When I heard this, I reached out and was immediately able to find the perfect cat to visit with Carol. After she passed, we reminisced on a photo of Carol smiling with Noodle, a woman that had been in pain leading up to her hospice admission.” The team at Hospice of the Midwest was able to hear what was important to Carol and fulfill that wish prior to her passing. Lynnette, Noodle’s owner explained, “Noodle and I met Carol in her last days. She was aware that Noodle was near as he curled up on the side of her bed and helped comfort her by touching his paw on her hand. It was a tender moment.” Pets have a calming and soothing quality to their presence, which bodes well for hospice patients. Pet therapy was just what Carol needed as she did not have family nearby to visit her. It was an honor to give her this gift. Music therapy is an important part of what Hospice of the Midwest has to offer our patients. Our Music Therapist, Crystal Berkenes, provides services that help with pain management and end-of-life support. Crystal utilizes music and instrumentation to reach non-musical goals, increase self-expression and decrease anxiety or restlessness. Collaborating with team members who work with the patients daily, Crystal can create a music therapy plan that is tailored to what the patients connect to. When one patient mentioned to Crystal his fond memories of sitting around a campfire while singing songs and making music with guitars and spoons, she had an idea. Crystal and another team member began putting together a special campfire experience for this patient by finding and researching how they could create a campfire experience without the real fire. Due to the patient being on oxygen, a real fire was simply not an option, so the team members found a faux battery-powered campfire online for them to sit around and sing. The patient got his campfire experience. As Crystal plucked at her banjo & another team member strummed her guitar, they sang along to campfire songs with the patient. Person after person kept stopping by, commenting on how life-like the fire was and listening to the music. Weeks later, patients continued bring up the experience. Crystal even remembers the patient belly-laughing when someone asked if they were roasting marsh mellows on the fire. “You could almost feel the warmth in the room because of the flame and music we were creating,” stated the patient. This experience was really geared towards the patient and what was important for him. That’s the special thing about music therapy. Music therapists are able to listen to the patients and act on what they hear by making it a reality and helping them through music. By giving this patient, and many others, personal experiences through music, music therapists help take away the pain in that moment. Here at Hospice of the Midwest we strive to make our patients more comfortable, and with the help from our therapists like Crystal Berkenes, that’s possible. The patient put it best when he said, “It has always been important, throughout my entire life, that people are able to have experiences like these with music.” As he has reflected on lyrics toward deeper meaning for his life he recalls, “All my life’s a circle…”

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