Music brings peace to hospice patients

Posted at 1:06 PM, Jul 10, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-10 13:06:58-04

Have you ever heard a song and been taken back to a certain time and place? Music can have profound effects—it can make you smile, dance, or even move you to tears. For hospice patients, music therapy can help them relax and put them at ease. At McLaren Hospice, music therapy is a complementary therapy available to patients and their families.

“The main goals of music therapy are to decrease depression, isolation and loneliness. Sometimes we try to ease restlessness or confusion; there is a lot we can do with music therapy,” Elizabeth Heffron, a music therapist for McLaren Hospice in Lansing said.

“I service a lot of patients with dementia, so many of my interventions revolve around decreasing confusion and providing spiritual support.” Heffron said. She also explained that music therapy benefits more than the patient—it benefits their families as well.

McLaren Hospice volunteer services supervisor, Matt Meeuwse, expressed his experiences watching music therapy in action.

“I have seen people with Alzheimer’s recall memories from their past when music is

played. Their mouths move with the music,” Meeuwse said. “I have seen the tears of joy from families witnessing this because although their loved ones may not know what is going on from day to day, it is the music that can bring back memories and connect patients back to their families or sometimes even their childhood.”

“Music therapy brings joy, comfort, and quality of life to our patients and should be utilized for more than just those who enjoy music. It’s not just entertainment—it is therapy,” Meeuwse said.

In Heffron’s typical day, she usually sees between 5 and 6 patients a day.

“Each visit is unique and tailored to the patient, and each patient’s preferences are taken into consideration,” Heffron said. “If the patient really enjoys rock music or hymns, we always try and incorporate that into the visit.”

“I play guitar or use my voice. If the patient plays the piano, I will bring in a keyboard. The communities I visit will often have a piano in the common room, and I’ll also use that. If my goal is to decrease confusion or facilitate access to memory, being able to play piano can bring back a patient’s memories,” Heffron said.

Research has shown music therapy has many benefits: it can help alleviate patients’ anxiety regarding end-of-life, help them express their emotions, improve mood and quality of life, and help make patients comfortable.

To learn more about music therapy services at McLaren Hospice, please call (810) 496- 8757.

About McLaren Greater Lansing

McLaren Greater Lansing and McLaren Orthopedic Hospital operate the region’s most distinguished cardiovascular and orthopedic surgery programs that—together with McLaren Greater Lansing’s oncology, women’s care and wide-ranging diagnostic, therapeutic and surgical services—consistently lead in clinical quality and efficiency. The hospitals are part of McLaren Health Care, mid-Michigan’s largest health care system. Visit

About McLaren Health Care

McLaren Health Care, headquartered in Flint, Michigan, is a fully integrated health network committed to quality evidence-based patient care and cost efficiency. The McLaren system includes 12 hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, imaging centers, the state’s only proton therapy center, an employed primary care physician network, commercial and Medicaid HMOs covering more than 250,000 lives, home health and hospice providers, retail medical equipment showrooms, pharmacy services, and a wholly owned medical malpractice insurance company. McLaren operates Michigan’s largest network of cancer centers and providers, anchored by the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute, one of only 45 National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive centers in the U.S. McLaren has 22,000 employees and more than 40,000 network providers. Its operations are housed in more than 350 facilities serving the entire Lower Peninsula of the state of Michigan along with a portion of the Upper Peninsula. Learn more at