Would you like to hear a story that will warm your heart? Recently this music therapist met a new hospice client, an elderly woman who is dealing with advanced dementia. When her daughter answered the door she directed me to go upstairs where her mother was waiting for me with Maggie (not her name), “Mom’s angel”, the woman said. In the room the elderly patient was sitting up at the side of the bed with the woman I assumed was Maggie. When I introduced myself to the patient she responded, “I’m scared”. Maggie reassured her and said, “Rosemary is here to do some music with us. It’s OK.”
What ensued next was one of the most delightful and heartwarming assessment sessions I have ever experienced. I began with a live rendition of the old hymn, “In the Garden”, a song I was told was a patient favorite. The patient responded by singing in a voice that got stronger as the song progressed. She did not remember many words, but she matched pitch perfectly. The music had brought the woman’s daughter upstairs and she and Maggie clapped with tenderness at the song’s conclusion. The next suggestion was, “Bringing in the Sheaves”. Again the patient vocalized the melody and was able to sing a few more words of this repetitive song. And now the woman tapped her hands on her legs to establish the marching tempo that she wanted. Cell phone cameras came out and this seemingly frail woman became the one in charge. Maggie suggested some spirituals and she and the patient’s daughter joined in the singing. The patient tried to stand up and if she could have, she would have begun dancing. “Oh, Momma”, the daughter said, “you are wonderful”. And to Maggie she said, we were so afraid to move her but we were right to do it. The story then came out that until a few days ago the mother lived on the West coast where Maggie was one of her caretakers. As the end of her life neared the family wished to have her with them in Iowa. Maggie flew with the old woman on the plane and now was staying through a time of transition. Both women talked about how scared they were to do this, but how many good things have come from it, like receiving music therapy services. The daughter said, “I knew my mother was still in there!” “We had FUN”, the patient said as the session ended.
What goodness! What caring!! Obviously, Maggie is making all the difference in the world in helping this woman transition to her new environment. Would that all of us know a “Maggie” in our lives.