Tabitha Tunes In to the Power of Music Therapy
The idea that music has therapeutic value is by no way new. The discovery dates back to ancient Egypt where it was seen as an integral part of the healing process. And Greek philosophers, Aristotle and Plato, recognized the benefits of melodies to help overcome emotional difficulties. Today, studies show that music impacts both behavior and emotions, making people less anxious and overwhelmed, more relaxed and happier.
Patty Niemann, a Tabitha Meals on Wheels and Hospice Volunteer, has devoted her life to music. She worked for 34 years as a Lincoln Public Schools elementary vocal music teacher, helping children discover their voices. Even after retiring, she continues to pursue her passion through the Eastridge Presbyterian Church’s Hospice Singers group.
Patty came across an inspiring article about a Hastings Hospice Choir performing for those nearing the end of life. Eager to learn more, she contacted the founder of the choir, her good friend and music educator, Tom Michalek. After learning similar groups were prevalent throughout New England, she set out to increase the awareness and presence of this music ministry in the Midwest. With Tom’s helpful consultation and God leading the way, she reached out to colleagues and fellow Eastridge Presbyterian Church members to form the Lincoln-based hospice singing group.
The group began in October 2018 with 16 singers. All members received volunteer training through Tabitha Hospice.
Patty chose Tabitha for the choir’s debut as she had experienced firsthand the compassionate, expert care her Mother had received, first through Tabitha’s short-term rehabilitation and ultimately with hospice care.
After a few practice sessions, one snowy December Sunday, they performed in front of their first audience at Tabitha’s Journey House, which is dedicated to end-of-life care.
Lilian, a Tabitha Hospice client and Tabitha Martin House resident, takes in the choir's talents.
The Eastridge Hospice Singers perform at Tabitha Residence—Martin House, located at Tabitha’s main campus in Lincoln.
Now with 25 members, the group has completed 65+ heartwarming visits. Each incorporates a customized song list based on the hospice client’s generation, church denomination, interests, special requests and the time of year. Song sessions last anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes.
Many times the choir is invited into hospice clients’ homes with family and nursing staff present. Often those living in a community environment ask that the group perform in a common area so friends and neighbors can enjoy the music too. They also take part in vigils where they sing for those in the very last moments of life. Each visit has a profound impact on all involved.
“It’s been such a great joy for me to share laughter and smiles during a very tender and emotional time. Music has such a wonderful message of comfort and peace but also of promise,” Patty shared. “I’m thankful that our group exists to help individuals transition from this life to the next through beautiful music.”
The impact the choir has made on Patty and others is invaluable. Through it, she’s strengthened relationships with colleagues, developed new friendships with Tabitha TEAMembers and brings joy to hospice clients and families.
Providing compassionate end-of-life care for over 40 years, Tabitha was the first program to offer hospice in Nebraska and to become Medicare-certified. Hospice provides expert guidance to those with a terminal diagnosis, focusing on symptom control, pain management and personal care assistance as well as grief and bereavement support to clients and their families. Hospice can help, visit Tabitha.org/Hospice for more information.
Learn how you can make a difference as a Tabitha Hospice Volunteer, visit Tabitha.org/Volunteer today.