Many hospices offer special therapies for patients to improve their emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being. This article will discuss three of them: pet therapy, music therapy, and youth integration programs. These offer many benefits and all of them give an opportunity for patients to have positive social interactions and decrease loneliness.
The use of companion animals in hospice care has been shown to have many important benefits for patients. A pet will be brought in to keep the patient company and the patient can pet it, play with it, have it perform tricks, or simply enjoy its company. The presence of an animal is soothing and decreases the loneliness that many hospice patients struggle with.
Typical companion animals include dogs, cats, rabbits, and birds. Dogs are especially popular because of their innate friendliness towards humans. Many patients have had pets in the past and it can bring back fond memories. Pets used in hospice are specially trained to be calm and obedient. Having a pet to show love to makes patients much happier.
Pets can improve the health of hospice patients by improving heart rates, lowering blood pressure, and reducing pain. Emotional benefits include decreased anxiety, improved mood, decreased loneliness, and a more optimistic outlook on the patient’s situation. This last benefit is perhaps the most important of all; hospice patients can lose hope and helping them feel like there’s a reason to keep going is crucial.
Music therapy is the use of music, songwriting, moving to music, and discussion of the meaning of lyrics to provide emotional and physical healing and a spiritual experience. It can be done in private, or with the family or other patients. Licensed music therapists will visit hospice patients and provide a musical experience specifically designed for the patient’s tastes and needs.
The emotional benefits of music therapy include improved self-confidence, opportunities for social interactions and friendships through common musical interests, and a chance to evaluate their emotions and reflect on life. Music therapy often focuses on bringing back memories and working through past issues using songwriting and listening to songs from their youth. Songwriting helps the patient explore their emotions and increases their confidence by giving them the power to put their ideas to music.
The physical benefits of music therapy include relaxation, increased speech skills, and improved motor skills. A skilled music therapist will be able to hone in on what music relaxes the patient most, and playing music makes relaxation exercises more effective. Singing strengthens the same muscles that are used in speech. Playing instruments such as the guitar or piano help improve muscular control and hand-eye coordination, especially when done repetitively over time.
Youth Integration Programs
Some hospices feature programs where young children can come to visit hospice patients. These visits are especially helpful to the elderly, who display renewed energy and can be reminded of the times when they had young children. Interacting with children truly brightens the spirit of the elderly. A Japanese study has shown that interaction between generations increases smiling and sociability in the elderly.
Youth hospice visits bring vibrant life into a place where much of the focus is on death. Youth visits provide crucial social interaction, which has been shown to slow down mental decline, lower blood pressure, and lower the risks for disease and death.
The program also benefits children. Children who interact with the elderly are less likely to be prejudiced against older people. They learn the value of the elderly and see that they still have many strengths. Unfortunately, few hospices have youth integration programs, but as the success of these programs is steadily proven, they should become more common.