Music Therapy in Harmony with Patients

Ida Mollenhauer attending Diane Seed's Roman Kitchen Cooking School in historic Rome

When Ida Mollenhauer was diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer, she and her family faced many challenges over the next several weeks, including diagnostic tests, chemotherapy and surgeries at Kellogg Cancer Center at NorthShore Evanston Hospital.

But there were helpful nonclinical services available the family wasn’t initially aware of, such as music therapy. A guitar player would stop by while Ida was having a treatment or in her hospital room, where family and friends would be gathered. He would ask for requests—and while Ida liked all types of music, she especially enjoyed flamenco and Latin music.

“The music therapist knew an eclectic range of music and would play anything from the Beatles to folk music to Van Morrison,” said Art Mollenhauer, Ida’s husband of 24 years. “It helped relax everyone and provided a light moment.”

Ida, a creative chef and caterer, passed away in hospice care 41 days after being admitted to the hospital. She was 54. “The care team at NorthShore was tremendous,” said Mollenhauer, remembering the kindness his wife was shown. “They were angels on earth.”

One special moment came, he said, after Ida passed. “Within two minutes, the music therapist, who was like a member of our family, was there and played some soft background music to soothe our struggling family,” he said.

Afterward, Mollenhauer made a commitment to support NorthShore’s Hospice and Palliative Care Fund with a priority focus on providing music therapy for patients and families, a service ordinarily not covered by traditional insurance. “It’s a shame that something so worthwhile, peaceful and enjoyable for patients isn’t covered,” said Mollenhauer.

NorthShore’s full-time music therapist, Carolyn Bowes, visits late-stage hospitalized hospice patients as well as patients who are receiving care in their homes, care communities or nursing facilities. With philanthropic gifts such as Mollenhauer’s, NorthShore also offers nutrition counseling, massage therapy, pastoral care and bereavement counseling to palliative care and hospice patients and their families.

Indeed, research on music therapy shows that it helps hospice patients manage pain and decreases the need for high levels of pain medication. The therapy provides solace to patients and family members; contributes to enjoyment, peace and spiritual practice; and eases restlessness and anxiety in very ill patients.

If you’re interested in supporting Hospice and Palliative Care, please contact Kathleen Chappell, JD, Director of Planned Giving, at 224.364.7211 or kchappell@northshore.org.

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