Avera Medical Minute: Music Therapy Program

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KSFY)- The Dougherty Hospice House is a home away from home for those in their final stages of life. Everything is done to ensure their comfort here and they really feel like this is their home. They can bring their family pets, have snacks whenever they want, and another program started just a few years ago, is the music therapy program.

Will Fester has made a new friend while in hospice. "You can't get a bigger honor than that," says Will.

Avera music therapist Rebecca Jennings-Boyer visits several times a week as they share their love of music.

"He's like, oh you sing, can you stay and sing for a little while, as so I sat down and sang," reflects Jennings-Boyer. She asked Will what his favorite song was. He said it was the song: 'One friend' Rebecca didn't know the song....at first.

Will remembers their second visit. "She went home, stayed up late at night, and practiced that song, and came back the next day, and sat down on the floor at my feet, and played that whole song for me."

Rebecca is more than a strolling musician, she is a Board Certified Music Therapist. "Trying to use music as a supportive medical service to help provide that comfort or quality of life," said Jennings-Boyer.

Music therapy is bringing that comfort, not just to Will but his wife Cosette."It brings you peace, she has a way of making you feel very comfortable," says Cosette.

The songs help Will and Cosette relive their memories. "We used to dance," added Cosette. Will chimed in, "I used to brag, I thought I was a pretty good dancer too. Then I met Cosette, and we were a pretty good team of dancers too."

Will and Cosette are celebrating their anniversary. "It will be 55 years the 27th of this month."

Music has been something the couple has enjoyed through the decades. "I just grew up loving music and Country Western, I guess I always loved it," says Will

Will's favorite song reminds him of his 'One friend', his cousin Rich and the bond they've had for decades. Those feel-good memories make the day brighter while in hospice care.

"It's gratifying to know that they don't know me until 24 hours before or may a week before, yet they still felt comfortable to allow me into their room or in their home to be a part of their last moments of life," said Jennings-Boyer.

The combination of a beautiful hospice home, caring staff, family and friends surrounding him, and Rebecca's music give him peace.

"I couldn't have better care," said Will."To me, it's a beautiful way to leave this earth."

A benefit concert to raise funds for the music therapy program is next weekend, Saturday, June 29th at Strawbale Winery. The Shamrocks band will be in concert. Tickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the door. For more information call 605-322-8900. You can also go to Avera.org/hospice-event.