Music Brings Peace and Comfort in Hospice Care

The use of music in healthcare has been known to assist in therapy, provide comfort for healing, and meet psychosocial and physical needs of patients.

The use of music in healthcare has been known to assist in therapy, provide comfort for healing, and meet psychosocial and physical needs of patients. Some are also using it to bring peace and comfort to patients in hospice care. The Eastridge Hospice Singers in Lincoln, Nebraska, a group of hospice-trained musicians from various denominations, know first-hand the benefits of music during end-of-life care.

Music and Ministry

Patty Niemann, Coordinator of the Eastridge Hospice Singers, personally knows the emotions that families experience when a loved one is in hospice care. Since the passing of her mother, she has witnessed the impact music has had on patients in hospice care.

Several years later, after reading an article about her friend Tom Michalek, the Music Director of the Hastings Hospice Choir, and what he was doing in Hastings, Patty said she felt a connection. She believes in “God-incidences” rather than coincidences. With her interest piqued and a feeling of being “called” to start such a program in Lincoln, Patty met with Tom to learn more about his music ministry. She then spoke with the Music and Ministry staff at Eastridge Presbyterian who were on-board both financially and spiritually in support of this program. She also talked with the hospice volunteer coordinator at Tabitha who felt this would be a great thing to offer hospice patients. After attending a workshop to learn more about this singing ministry, Patty took a leap of faith and implemented the Eastridge Hospice Singers in October 2018.

The mission of the Eastridge Hospice Singers is to bring the peace and comfort of music to individuals in hospice care, meeting them where they are at in their end-of-life journey. The Eastridge Hospice Singers are formally associated with Tabitha Hospice and HoriSun Hospice; however, they offer singing visits to anyone receiving hospice care from a hospice provider in Lincoln.

Singing Visits

The Eastridge Hospice Singers follow their hearts so that songs they sing are what the patient or family has requested most of the time. Seeing a person light up when they sing a Broadway tune or Country song, or hear a children’s song that was special to them when they were young, are some of the reasons why they tailor each singing visit as much as they can. Patty knows that’s what brings the people comfort and peace, and often joy and laughter.

Typically, the singers will plan to sing for about 30 minutes, but visits can be shorter or longer depending upon the desire of the person for whom they are singing. All of the singers are volunteers, and many are retired.

Patty said they try very hard to accommodate every request, even the ones that need them to sing within 24-hours. Sometimes, there may only be a couple of singers available in those instances but it means so much to the family and that’s why the singers do their best to be there.

During the pandemic, the singers were restricted from going into residential care facilities so they would sing using computers and iPads. A few of the facilities have continued to implement that guideline.

Training of Hospice Singers

Patty feels blessed the hospice singers have a broad range of singing experience. There are no tryouts. “I have to trust they’ve had experience singing with a group and they match pitch with others. We love it when we can sing a wide variety of songs,” Patty noted.

All singers have gone through hospice training provided by Tabitha or HoriSun Hospice so that they are comfortable interacting with patients receiving hospice care.

Benefits for Patients and Families

In the five years they have been singing together, the Eastridge Hospice Singers have had the privilege of seeing many families connect with their loved ones in more meaningful ways than they could have imagined. Through music, individuals in hospice care can find joy and love when their minds are temporarily distracted from their end-of-life journey.

Patty recalls one couple; the wife had Parkinson’s. Over a year, the singers made 23 singing visits to their home. “When we first began singing for them, she was able to formulate sentences so that we could understand her, then as the year progressed she wasn’t talking at all. But she would sing with us,” Patty said. Hymns that were familiar to the couple were sung and the singers would bring music for the husband to join in singing as he had sung with a Praise Band. After his wife passed, he told HoriSun’s Bereavement Coordinator that when his wife and he could no longer communicate with words and talking, the 45-minutes of music every two weeks brought them together and he was eternally grateful for those times.

Even at the end of life, when there are tears and it is hard, and one doesn’t know how much longer their loved one will be with them, they still have the opportunity to laugh, find joy, and celebrate. One of the beautiful things that has come from this program for the singers is the ability to laugh and find joy as well.

“With the addition of comfort and support during one’s end-of-life journey, I believe we can see death as beautiful, the same as we view the birth of a baby,” Patty added.

To request a singing visit for someone in hospice care or to inquire about joining the Eastridge Hospice Singers, contact Patty Niemann at epc.hospice.singers@gmail.com or call 402-488-7844.

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