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What’s your favorite music? We used to believe that it was classical music that made us smarter. Today, thanks to more than 25 years of research, we know that whether it’s rock ‘n’ roll, jazz, hip-hop or classical, your gray matter prefers the same music you do. And it doesn’t just impact your smarts. Music can affect our brains and our behavior in all kinds of ways. That’s especially helpful in hospice care.

Hospice patients and their loved ones, as well as hospice staff and volunteers, often experience a need for comfort and communication that goes beyond the pharmacological or even the verbal. Music can fill that need in a very powerful way. In addition to improving brain and motor skills, it can calm stress, reduce pain and enhance functioning. It can facilitate reminiscence and life review creating a connection with one’s history, one’s faith and one’s unconscious.

Based on well-substantiated research, board-certified music therapists use a variety of methods in their work. In hospice, they may play patient-requested music from a smartphone with speakers or a tablet. They may sing with or for the patient. They may even facilitate gentle physical movement through use of recorded music (music activates motor centers and is naturally conducive to movement). If a patient is able to participate in the process, a music therapist may involve them or their family members in creating a life-review CD or playlist or arranging musical portion of memorial service planning. “It’s all very individualized,” says Miller-Dwan Foundation President, Traci Marciniak.

That’s why the Foundation recently spent more than $30,000 to assure that hospice patients have access to music therapy. “It’s that important,” says Marciniak. Over a two-year period, dollars will be used to pay for a board-certified music therapist and to purchase any necessary equipment.

Think about your favorite music. What does it bring up for you? How does it make you feel? Listen to some right now. Really get into it. Notice your thoughts and your body. What would you like to listen to in your final days? I, for one, am glad to know that should I end up at Solvay Hospice House, I won’t be relegated to country western.

Fun Fact: Traci Marciniak, the Miller-Dwan Foundation President, was a music major before receiving her degree in business.

Click here to learn more about respite care at Solvay Hospice House.