As part of Hospice Care Week (October 9th-15th), we’ve spoken to Tom, our Music Therapist, who works with patients, families, staff and volunteers.
Here, Tom explains what music means to him and how it forms part of our holistic approach to hospice care.
When did your passion for music begin?
When I was a teenager, getting CDs from my brother and sister. I remember hearing music and thinking it’s nice to listen to but I wanted to be part of the music playing culture. My friends and I began teaching ourselves guitar and we spurred each other on.
What does music mean to you?
Playing together with friends feels like a different way of interacting, especially if you’re improvising. It’s almost like a dance.
How did music become your career?
It wasn’t very obvious that it would be a career. I studied anthropology as a degree because I was always interested in people and cultures. As part of this I did a module on how music people across the world use music in different ways. I didn’t hear about music therapy until I was in my 30s. It seemed like an ideal match for me.
What does your music therapy at St Oswald’s Hospice involve?
I work on a one-on-one basis and in group sessions in the Focus on Living Centre, which is mixture of mainly improvising with instruments and singing and playing songs together. I also work on the wards with patients and their families, sharing stories and talking about songs that mean a lot to them. There’s also an open group, which is mainly made up of people accessing the bereavement services, and I’m involved in the staff choir as well.
What do you think people get out of music therapy?
For some people it’s a chance for people who have never done music before or believe that they can, to give it a go and be part of music. There’s also a social side for people who may be coming from isolated situations. There’s an excitement that goes along with making music together and it’s great to part of that. You see people play the music and it helps them open up about other things as well. On the ward, the situations people in are so powerful and sometimes that’s not always easy to comprehend. Music can help with understanding and gives them focus on something.
What does Hospice Care mean to you?
Aside from meeting people at the Hospice, I’ve also read books about Hospice Care by Dr Kathryn Mannix. It seems a lot of it is about listening to people and understanding their individuality.
What’s the biggest misconception of Hospice Care?
Some people have a strong association that a hospice is a gloomy place that’s just focused on death. But in all areas of the hospice, there’s a focus on life with death being part of that. It’s not gloomy when you’re here.