Music Therapy and Hospice Care

Music therapy:

  • Decreases symptoms such as nausea, pain, fatigue and shortness of breath
  • Addresses emotional issues such as depression, anxiety, anger and fear
  • Strengthens spiritual connections
  • Alleviates social isolation, loneliness and boredom
  • Strengthens relationships with family and friends
  • Creates musical legacies such as songs, performances, recordings and music-based life reviews

Music is a highly versatile and dynamic therapeutic modality, lending itself to a variety of interventions that can benefit people living with life-threatening illnesses, along with their family members and caregivers. By using skillfully planned musical improvisations, songwriting, relaxation techniques, and person-centered techniques, music therapy is a holistic therapy for palliative care and hospice, whatever the care setting.

Music therapy activities may include:

  • Lyric analysis and sharing
  • Song writing
  • Guided imagery
  • Music listening
  • Music therapy relaxation techniques
  • Planning music for memorial services
  • Life review

Research and resources

Hilliard, R. (2001). The use of music therapy in meeting the multidimensional needs of hospice patients and families. Journal of Palliative Care, 17(3). 161-166

Hilliard, R. (2005). Hospice and palliative care music therapy: A guide to program development and clinical care. New Jersey: Jeffery Books.

Romo, R., &Gifford, L. (2007). A cost-benefit analysis of music therapy in a home hospice. Nursing Economics, 25(6), 353-8

Walworth, D. D. (2005). Procedural-support music therapy in the healthcare setting: A cost-effectiveness analysis. Journal of Pediatric Nursing, 20(4), 276-84.


Cost effectiveness of music therapy

While music therapy may be seen by some as a luxury, it can offer tangible benefits to patients, their families, and the bottom line.  This research study tracked the cost benefit of introducing music therapy into hospice care settings. Music therapy was found to have a profound impact on cost savings, while creating benefits for the patients, families and caregivers.

A Cost-Benefit Analysis of Music Therapy in a Home Hospice
Rafael Romo, MSN, RN; Lisa Gifford, MSN, RN

“For this sample population, the cost-benefit analysis indicates that the expense of the music therapy program is greatly offset by the cost savings seen in other areas of care.”


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