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Bringing Therapeutic Music to Patients, Families, and Caregivers

Established in 2017, Music by the Bedside is a clinical program of Hospice of the Piedmont that provides physical, emotional, and spiritual support for patients and their families. Research has shown that therapeutic music can have physical benefits such as reduction of blood pressure and regulating patients’ heartbeats, stimulating the immune response, and promoting sleep. Therapeutic music’s healing atmosphere promotes both cognitive engagement and relaxation for patients, while giving comfort and emotional support to family members and caregivers.

Typically, therapeutic musicians perform at the Hospice House and Center for Acute Hospice Care; as available, our therapeutic musicians also travel to patients’ homes. Whether at the Hospice House, Center for Acute Hospice Care, or in patients’ homes, the therapeutic musicians offer live, personalized music for each patient, based upon their unique needs and preferences. Last year, when COVID-19 spread to our community, the Music by the Bedside program was suspended due to pandemic-related concerns. In summer 2020, Hospice of the Piedmont nursing staff requested therapeutic music to resume in common areas of the Hospice House and Center for Acute Hospice Care, in the Northridge Medical Park. The nurses felt that therapeutic music would be especially helpful for staff and family members during this stressful time.

Between Hospice House and the Center for Acute Hospice Care, the Music by the Bedside program provides about 30 hours per month of therapeutic music to patients, families, and clinicians.

All our musicians are Certified Music Practitioners and graduates of nationally accredited programs. They play a range of instruments including the harp, classical guitar, and/or sing. Sessions typically last 20-45 minutes and are offered free of charge, thanks to private philanthropy.

Therapeutic music is a spiritual practice according to Kate Tamarkin, Program Coordinator of the Music by the Bedside program. “Music touches our hearts. To witness suffering and be a compassionate and loving presence is half the equation. To offer appropriate music and let the music do its sacred work is the other part. The combination of loving intention and music helps to lessen the physical and emotional pain of dying.” She continues” Music by the Bedside was my dream, and I am thrilled that our program has become a valued and thriving priority of Hospice of the Piedmont. I want to make sure that ‘Music by the Bedside’ continues long after my lifetime, and have made it an important piece of my estate planning.”

As Brenda Cox, Music by the Bedside musician, recounts: “I was playing by the bedside for someone who was not conscious. A younger man came in and without saying anything, took a seat at the bed. He took the patient’s hand and held it and began to cry.  After several minutes, I stopped playing and walked around to the bed and asked softly if I should step out and leave them alone for a bit. He answered, ‘absolutely not, don’t leave, keep playing; it helps so much.’”

Music by the Bedside was my dream, and I am thrilled that our program has become a valued and thriving priority of Hospice of the Piedmont.

— Kate Tamarkin, Program Coordinator for Music by the Bedside