The Power of Music Therapy
When COVID-19 rolled into Western North Carolina, questions about how best to care for our community took on a different tone. Hospice families welcome us not only into their homes, but also into emotionally and medically difficult times in their lives. I will never again take for granted the true intimacy that comes with sharing space and music with patients and families in person.
The incredible team at Givens Estates recognized the value of connection and agreed to explore telehealth (live video conferencing over a secured platform) to conduct music therapy sessions to support residents in hospice care experiencing agitation, existential crisis, and depression. Rose Pike, Life Enrichment Assistant at Givens Estates, and I established a routine to determine each week who needed a visit, setting off each Thursday morning to spend time with them. While I provided live, individualized music experiences on a tablet, Rose tracked the heartbeat of the room, providing the physical presence I could not. Residents who may not fully comprehend seeing someone on a tablet screen still connected deeply with the music shared: their body’s tension melting, their eyes welling with the tears of being seen, and their faces lighting with joy as they shared a treasured memory.
One resident in particular, Ms. Sue Nicholson (pictured left) was a lifelong musician, an organist to be exact. During a visit captured on video (shared below), she reflected on her early days as a church organist and the wisdom that stems from her deep faith: “be a friend to others.” Her connection to music defied what seemed physically possible at her advanced age as she operated the piano pedal with superb timing, ringing out four-part harmony across all octaves of the piano during a visit captured on video to share with her family. We are honored that her family chose to share these moments on film as a testament to Sue and the power of music.
Reflecting on this time together, Rose shared “I’ve had the honor of being able to sit in on music therapy sessions and have seen the impact it has on individuals. I was deeply moved by the connection and spirituality that I have witnessed. I believe in the power of music, it can transcend words and connect people, and I have seen that with music therapy.”
Like many of you, I never imagined my job would become one done over a screen. As a board-certified music therapist, my training is comprised of musicianship, assessing and addressing physical, emotional, and psychosocial needs, and connecting with people on a deep, human level. All of which I learned to do in person. And now, here Rose and I were, miles apart and yet working closely together, creating moments that felt impossible during the early days of the pandemic.
The heart of what we do at hospice is show up for people: to walk alongside, hold a hand, and listen. The staff at Givens Estates share that same spirit, recognizing the humanity of each resident. Together as a community, we uphold our hospice families during this tender time.
Shared by Alice Berry, Four Seasons Music Therapist