‘Hospices often unfamiliar with the power of music’

Embrace Netherlands brings interactive music programs, including in palliative care. She works with professional musicians, trains staff and collaborates in this with music therapists and magicians. Music can help enhance the well-being of people in the final stages of life. The majority of hospices affirm the importance of music for their clients, but do not use music therapists and magicians. Unfamiliarity with it is the main reason for this. This is according to the research of music educator Frija Prins.

Very slowly, a big smile appears on the face of the man (60). A tear rolls down his cheek. “I came to myself for a while,” he says afterwards.
Frija: “When I first came into his room, I saw some Buddha statues in his room. I asked him if he would like it if I made music to match this atmosphere. He was happy to do so. I created a relaxed, peaceful atmosphere and chanted mantras for him. It was very moving to experience what that did to him.”

Frija Prins

Not immediately enthusiastic
Part of her work experience hours were spent at the hospice in Hoorn, where she has also worked as a nurse for seventeen years. At first, her employer was less than enthusiastic when she suggested using her work experience hours at the hospice. Frija: “Unknown makes unloved, I think that’s where the reluctance comes from.” Fortunately, that changed: “My supervisor and colleagues became increasingly enthusiastic when they saw what music brought to people.” People are taken out of “being sick” for a while, come to themselves, get another opportunity for contact or expression of emotions and find relaxation. Music also evokes memories; through music you can look back on your life. Frija: “That your final stage is good, that’s very important. Music can contribute to that.”

Hospices do find music important
Frija Prins’ research shows that most hospices do recognize the importance of music. 170 hospice facilities were sent a survey, 53 percent of which responded. 97 percent of these hospices find music a valuable addition to care. Remarkably, only 60 percent of respondents use music structurally, and only 30 percent of them use a music therapist or educator. Frija: “It seems that hospices that do not use the services of a music therapist or educator usually use music in a recreational way. For example, an ensemble comes and plays in the living room. This is very valuable because music can touch people and provide distraction and relaxation. But for the hospice resident, this is often a one-time experience. In most cases, a music therapist or educator comes back more than once for a music moment; they offer more continuity.”

Tailoring to the person
A music therapist or educator can also help family and caregivers use music in everyday life: “For example, we can find out what music is helpful for someone when they feel sad or restless and then lay out some CDs. We have personal contact with the resident, so we can focus on his or her personal needs. I look at the file first. Is anything already known about musical preferences, what might this person need? Is it mainly about relaxation, distraction and clearing the head? Or is there a need for another entry point for contact or expression of emotions? Or does someone want help picking out music for the funeral, that too occurs.”

Research experience
Frija also conducted research on the effect of the music sessions on residents. The results show that music has a positive effect on well-being. Sometimes that effect is slight, but sometimes it is very strong. Frija: “People also rate live music higher than listening to a CD, for example. This seems to be mainly related to the interaction that takes place during the music. All participants indicated they would like to continue receiving the music moments.”

In addition to unfamiliarity, funding can also be a barrier to using music therapists or magicians. Frija: “Both the organizational forms and the financing of hospices are very diverse and it is often not clear from which resources music professionals can be paid or reimbursed. This can indeed be experienced as a barrier. But it starts with the first step: experiencing what music can mean in daily life for people who are in their last phase of life.”

Difference between music therapist and music educator
A music therapist uses music for the purpose of treating a condition, such as neurosis, psychosis or depression. They also provide supportive (agogic) care. A music educator uses music as a means to reduce the effects of an illness or disability and, where still possible, to promote development.

Practical Expertise Center Embrace Netherlands

Embrace Netherlands develops innovative music programs and training with the goal of giving vulnerable people a better life. We perform our music programs together with professional and amateur musicians, family caregivers, care workers and students. Our professional musicians took the master module “Music and Healthcare” at the Prince Claus Conservatory of Music. Embrace designs special programs. Want to know more? Email us: info@embracenederland.nl