Faces of Music Care Part 3: Hospice Peterborough

by Bev Foster

  This blog entry is submitted by Paula Greenwood,  Volunteer Coordinator at Hospice Peterborough. Paula’s full article, Notes from a Bedside Singing Practice, will be published later this month in DOORWAY to Room 217, Room 217 Foundation’s newsletter. For your free subscription, click here.

Paula Greenwood

Hospice Peterborough is a community-based hospice serving the city and county of Peterborough, Ontario. We support people and their families through serious illness and grief. For over 24 years, we have offered a variety of services including visiting volunteers, a day hospice program, caregiver support, grief programming for children, teens and adults. We continue to respond to our community with new services like Bedside Singing. The Bedside Singers at Hospice Peterborough began with a chance conversation in the summer of 2008. A few of us were chatting about the power of music and it became the catalyst for a plan that we could offer music to our clients. Four of us met to investigate the possibilities further. One of our volunteers travelled to a workshop in Brattleboro, Vermont with the Hallowell Singers. Our next steps included a specific type of training and offered a five-week, 15 hour course for all, with content that brought together the foundations of hospice palliative care, and also offered opportunities to sing and build a team of singers who connected with each other. Songs were woven through each session.   After months of planning, training, practicing and building repertoire, the first ‘sing’ occurred in May of 2010.  We had decided that we would offer a small group of four singers in clients’ homes and would bring a larger group (sometimes 6-7) to sing on the Palliative Care Unit at Peterborough Regional Health Centre.  The current group includes 10 women who sing regularly. In the summer of 2010, a volunteer stepped forward to be the choral leader. Her background included many years of directing church choirs. She brought new beauty to the music due to her attention to detail. Practices were initially held twice monthly at Hospice Peterborough, now monthly, and a keyboard is used to help discern harmonies. When singing to clients, the group sings a cappella, so a pitch pipe is used. The stories began as we watched the profound effect that music had on the people that were visited. For example, one night,  the singers entered the room of Joan who had been a hospice volunteer herself. The repertoire on the unit includes 2-3-4 songs for each patient, and they chose “Angels Hovering ‘Round”. Joan was not able to speak, but she was able to show facial expression and move her arms. As the singers began, her face lit up and she start to wave her arms back and forth.  And her eyes filled with tears as the song ended…she died a few weeks later.   Room 217 Foundation is thrilled to hear about these stories of Music Care.  For more stories of care, check out our website at www.room217.ca