Music Therapy for Hospice Patients: Moments with Erica from VITAS

Everything I do, from the moment that I walk
in, is for a purpose. There’s a reason. And when a patient isn’t feeling well, that’s
the moment that we want to be there. That’s the moment where we can provide the
most and be the most effective. And I’m constantly assessing, as the session
goes on, how I can change. How I can use the music to help this need. “Are you going to sing with me?” My name’s Erica Santiago and I’m a music therapist
with VITAS hospice. When I first heard of hospice, I thought patients
that can’t communicate. They’re literally on their death bed. Yes I have patients that are actively dying,
but most of my patients can talk to me. They laugh, make jokes, you know. They’re actively engaged in their everyday,
it’s just that they have this terminal illness that they can’t do anything about. I think that’s what’s difficult in wanting
to accept hospice. They don’t know what it’s going to be like. They don’t want someone coming in and poking
and prodding. What are you doing, how are you feeling, how
are you coping with this? It’s overwhelming. With music therapy, it’s non-intrusive. I can get the same answers without asking
those questions. Music is a universal language and I’m coming
into your home and bringing something that everyone can connect with. A lot of times it’s validation. I see you. I’m here with you and I’m acknowledging what
you’re going through. I’m here to help you in any way that I possibly
can. I think that everyone does therapy to themselves
with music. But I wouldn’t say that it’s music therapy. And it’s not only that I’m bringing music
but I’m bringing that interaction. The therapist is a huge part, if not more
than the music, because it’s a personal level. It’s a relationship with our patients and
their families. And bringing a human element into that is
the biggest part of what music therapy is. That we can match what the patient needs and
respond accordingly. “This is sincerely the first time I’ve picked
this up to play it. So wow. It makes me happy. Makes me feel like mom would be proud.” I think what’s most important is to focus
on, “I’m living today and I have this moment. There’s people here to help me through that
and there’s people here to help my family member through that, so I don’t have to go
through it alone.”


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