Music Therapy is a clinical and evidence-based intervention that uses music to address a variety of care goals. *

Board-certified music therapists—an important part of the hospice care team—are trained clinicians who hold bachelors and/or master’s degrees and have completed 1040 hours of internship.

Music therapists carefully select music and rhythms that are part of a patient’s unique life story. Patients of all ages, and often their caregivers, can experience profound benefits including:

  • Decreased anxiety, depression, anger, and fear, and positive changes in mood
  • Distraction from agitation
  • Decreased confusion and disorientation
  • Enhanced memory recall, verbalization, and lucidity
  • Improved communication
  • Grief support

*Music Therapy is not yet available in all communities


  • Music Therapists engage with patients in ways that best suit the patient’s specific needs and preferences
  • Some methods include song selection by the patient, singing, song writing, improvisation, guided imagery, instrument-playing and relaxation techniques
  • Music therapy can be active or passive depending on a patient’s needs
  • Elements of music therapy visits can be taught to family caregivers, providing another way for caregivers to interact with and connect with their loved one
  • Music therapy sessions often take place with family, friends, and caregivers present
  • Music therapy can be beneficial up until a patient’s last few days or hours, as hearing is the last of the senses to be lost

Known to many as the “Singing Surgeon,” Dr. Demetrio Nasol’s life centered around a love of family, music, and medicine. Born in the Philippines, Dr. Nasol’s culture inspired his passion for music. Throughout his 50-year career as a thoracic and general surgeon, he always made time for music through community events, church activities, and the choir, which took him around the world.

As he approached the end of his life, the music of his native country played a critical and comforting role. Long ago, Dr. Nasol sang Harana, traditional Filipino love songs, to court his future wife, Virgie. The songs became the soundtrack of their long life together. Understanding this unique and personal aspect of their story, music therapist, Kaitlin Ridgway, worked with Dr. Nasol and his wife to learn the melodies and lyrics of these special songs. This therapeutic musical collaboration—connecting culture, relationship, tradition and memory—demonstrates the commitment of Arbor Hospice’s music therapists to find personal ways to ensure comfort and peace at end of life, not only for Dr. Nasol, but for his family as well.


“He responded quickly to familiar music. His whole body relaxed. I heard his breathing become regular, and he appeared to be resting comfortably. His wife and daughter, who were at his side, helped make song choices, and took comfort seeing him relax…it was a clam space for them as well.”

–Kaitlin Ridgway, MM, MT-BC Certified Music Therapist

Learn how a special music therapy visit brought music back to Gary

Skip to watch Gary’s harmonica performance during a music therapy visit

MASSAGE THERAPY: Gentle Touch. Big Impact.

During a time of increased anxiety, agitation and fear, therapeutic touch from one of Arbor Hospice’s board-certified, master’s-prepared massage therapists is a welcome gift of comfort. *

Research shows that therapeutic massage can have measurable impact on a hospice patient’s quality of life, because it addresses both the physical pain and emotional distress that often comes with life-limiting illness.

Massage Helps

Arbor Hospice’s massage therapists utilize techniques designed to ease a patient’s physical pain, restore emotional comfort and:

  • Decrease anxiety, depression, anger, confusion, disorientation, and fear
  • Decrease physical discomfort,
  • Reduce nausea
  • Distract from agitation
  • Enhance circulation
  • Improve sleep quality
  • Increase memory recall, verbalization, and lucidity
  • Reduce tension in the muscles and soft tissues
  • Ease muscle and joint pain
  • Improve blood pressure
  • Boost the immune system
  • Promote a sense of peace and well-being

“My patient, a woman in her late 30’s who was suffering from cancer, told me that the only time she was not in pain was during her massages.”

–Hospice of Michigan Massage Therapist

*Massage Therapy is not yet available in all communities


Whether it is the simplicity of a gentle stroke of the hand or a more traditional form of touch, Arbor Hospice’s board-certified massage therapists work with a patient’s care team to identify an appropriate therapeutic intervention to bring comfort and relaxation.

  • SWEDISH MASSAGE provides deep muscle stimulation and rhythmic movements to enhance relaxation and calmness, stimulate oxygen in tissue, reduce buildup of lactic acid in muscles, and assist in delivering nutrients and removing waste products from tissue.
  • COMFORT TOUCH is a nurturing form of acupressure that gives special consideration to the physical and emotional needs of the hospice patient. Its primary intention is to provide comfort through techniques that promote relief from physical and emotional pains and can also enhance the quality of life for anyone in need of a caring touch.
  • REIKI is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation. Administered by the “laying on of hands” Reiki is based on the idea that an unseen “life force energy” flows through us to affect our well-being. As massage therapists apply Reiki, it treats the whole person – mind, body and spirit – to create beneficial effects such as relaxation, pain reduction, and feelings of peace and security.
  • AROMATHERAPY uses natural plant extracts and essential oils to promote well-being. Certain herbs and essences are known to activate areas of the brain to significantly reduce stress, anxiety and depression and promote relaxation.

PET VISIT PROGRAM: Comfort From Our Sweetest Companions

Leveraging the natural bond between humans and animals, Hospice of Michigan is proud to offer a Pet Visit. *

Studies have shown significant health benefits of using animals in patient care. This program, facilitated by volunteers and their pets, provides comfort, soothing companionship, and grief support to terminally ill patients and their loved ones – in their own homes or in senior living facilities.

The Pet Visit Program features the joyful companionship of dogs, cats and other friendly pets.

Therapeutic time with an animal can:

  • Fill a void for patients missing a companion
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduce anxiety
  • Increase levels of endorphins
  • Stabilize intense emotions
  • Improve mood and general well-being

*Pet Visits are not yet available in all communities. 

About Arbor Hospice’s Pet Companions

All pet companions are “interviewed” by Arbor Hospice to ensure they have a companionable disposition, enjoy being around people, are comfortable with strangers and like being touched. All companion pets must be accompanied by their “humans” – who have completed Hospice of Michigan’s volunteer training program. In addition, all participating pets must be at least 1-year-old and current on vaccinations.

Arbor Hospice is always looking to grow its network of friendly pet visitors. Please contact Alison Wagner, Director of Volunteer Services and Integrative Therapies at