Instrumental Peace at End of Life

Humanitarian Social Innovations is proud to welcome a new organization, Instrumental Peace, to our program community.
Mining Memories Through Music

Instrumental Peace (IP) is a grassroots organization in Pennsylvania that uses music and storytelling to comfort those dealing with a life-altering condition. Music activates memories, fosters meaning and purpose, inspires community and cultivates legacy. The organization’s founder, Lauren Knatz, uses music to enhance quality of life and has worked for many years ministering to patients and their families as they navigate end-of-life choices.

IP has been demonstrating the effectiveness of live music in hospice and palliative care settings, including  hospitals, retirement communities, nursing facilities and aging in place communities. The organization facilitates interactive sessions designed to combat social isolation and engage seniors in building community. As a result of this work, Instrumental Peace captures the memories and life experiences of our elder generation, which can then be preserved as an important thread of our cultural heritage.

A History of Music and Care

Lauren Knatz has performed acoustic guitar and vocal accompaniment for seniors, hospice patients and special needs populations for over twenty years in Central PA and Maryland.  She has discovered that using the medium of music within the discipline of recreation provides an effective means of harnessing the healing properties of music while establishing a safe and nonthreatening environment for self-expression.

Profoundly affected by the aftermath of 911 and its violent imagery, Lauren began a quest to honor the natural cycle of life that embodies the philosophies of both hospice and palliative care. Her hospice volunteer experience as a musician and performer began in 2000, which then inspired her to finish her Bachelors degree in sociology at York College of Pennsylvania in 2008.

Instrumental Peace was born while working as a veterinary assistant counseling people whose pets were diagnosed with terminal conditions by helping to improve quality of life for them in their final days. It was here that she began playing acoustic guitar to the animals who were dying. The animals had become her first teachers.

Lauren’s inspiration may have come  from her work with animals, but it was an oral history assignment in her senior year at York College in which she interviewed her father, that marked a pivotal point in her program’s development. The death of Lauren’s father less than 2 years after these recorded interviews served as a cathartic reminder of the universals within generations, and the importance of capturing family history in real time.

By marrying music with narrative, Lauren empowers patients at end-of-life through their own life-songs. Allowing them to revisit the significant people, places and events of their past helps them to reclaim dignity and purpose, profoundly improving the dying process.

Lauren believes that a song can be compared to an individual’s life; when you understand the inspiration behind the song and the historical context in which it was written, the notes resonate with deeper clarity.  Similarity, when we are empowered to reflect upon our own lives we begin to recognize each turning point as a channel to instrumental peace and understanding.

Lauren is an ongoing speaker of the holistic benefits of music at various teaching hospitals, long term care facilities and caregiver organizations.

The Plan for the Future

Instrumental Peace is developing a curriculum to train staff at various hospitals and retirement communities to use live, personalized music to create lasting bonds with their residents, promoting empathy and improving the high turnover rate among employees that plague long term care facilities and minimize quality of care for their residents.  The program can also modify its curriculum to work with all levels of care so that everyone can benefit from its person-centered care. The long-term goal of Instrumental Peace is to train and certify carefully selected musicians to disseminate its methodology throughout eldercare, palliative care and hospice so that live music will become a standard of care for our loved ones for generations to come.

With your help, we can create an intergenerational bridge between staff and loved ones, instill compassion and communion and provide seniors with the personalized care they need to achieve dignity and purpose at end-of-life.

Humanitarian Social Innovations is pleased to assist Instrumental Peace in their goals and vision to help elder care  communities. Please donate your support to the work of Instrumental Peace.

A Life Saved, by Lauren Knatz on the Instrumental Peace Facebook Page

At end of life, grief and loss can eclipse the will to live when there is no outlet for the pain.

On this day, I received an urgent call. My patient lived in a high rise, low income apartment building in the epicenter of Lancaster city on the 8th floor. Social isolation, acute loneliness and too much face time with a terminal illness had escalated into something more eminent than death itself– Suicide.

I had looked at his chart and thought maybe I might know what song would get him off the ledge, at least long enough for me to sing it to him. He was angry that day. And with his anger came the reason. His wife had two timed him and the sound track of her infidelity kept skipping over and over inside his head.

As a hospice musician, I had the advantage. My patient knew everything there was to know about Hank Williams, Sr. Stepping into Hank’s character that day, he had discovered a way to give himself permission to grieve. And with permission comes acceptance.

My patient and I sang this song together, {Your Cheatin’ Heart} and as we did we both knew that morphine and alcohol were no match for the human spirit.

The power of music and the human spirit…

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