Music therapy clinical practice in hospice: Differences between home and nursing home delivery

Xiaodi Liu, Debra S. Burns, Russell E. Hilliard, Timothy E. Stump, Kathleen T. Unroe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Scopus citations


Background: Hospice music therapy is delivered in both homes and nursing homes (NH). No studies to date have explored differences in music therapy delivery between home and NH hospice patients. Objective: To compare music therapy referral reasons and delivery for hospice patients living in NH versus home. Methods: A retrospective, electronic medical record review was conducted from a large U.S. hospice of patients receiving music therapy between January 1, 2006, and December 31, 2010. Results: Among the 4,804 patients, 2,930 lived in an NH and 1,847 patients lived at home. Compared to home, NH hospice patients were more likely to be female, older, unmarried, and Caucasian. For home hospice patients, the top referral reasons were patient/family emotional and spiritual support, quality of life, and isolation. The most frequent referral reasons for NH hospice patients were isolation, quality of life, and patient/family emotional and spiritual support. Differences in music therapy delivery depended mainly on patients' primary diagnosis and location of care. Conclusions: Results suggest differences in referral reasons and delivery based on an interaction between location of care and patient characteristics. Delivery differences are likely a result of individualized assessment and care plans developed by the music therapist and other interdisciplinary team members to address the unique needs of the patient. Thus, it is important to have professionally trained music therapists assess and provide tailored music-based interventions for patients with different referral reasons and personal characteristics. This study also supports staffing decisions based on patient need rather than average daily census.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)376-393
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Music Therapy
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015


  • Clinical practice
  • Hospice
  • Music therapy
  • Nursing home

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Complementary and Manual Therapy
  • Music

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