Canuck Place Children's Hospice




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As families struggle with increased levels of isolation, we were able to adapt in order to provide ongoing music therapy supports. Some of our inpatient children who are struggling with life-limiting illnesses, and in some cases receiving end-of-life care, request additional sessions with Karin for comfort and managing their anxieties. The children or youth often request their favourite songs to be sung. This can create a beautiful and sacred space for families to be with one another in these otherwise very difficult moments. Staff have also expressed gratitude as they share in the benefits of the music as it fills rooms and hallways, lifting spirits with each note. Thank you very much for the funding Music Heals provides, enabling these valuable supports to continue.

Linda Wollschlaeger-Fischer

Manager, Counseling and Bereavement Services

A variety of types of sessions were provided at Canuck Place Children’s Hospice: small group sessions, family sessions, one-to-ones, outpatients, bedside care and home visits. In-hospice Music Therapy sessions are held at both locations in Vancouver and Abbotsford.

Since the onset of COVID-19 restrictions, music therapy programs have included providing children and youth staying in hospice with one-to-one sessions and bedside care and their siblings and parents services only if they are staying in hospice while the child or youth on the program receives end-of-life care. Some children and youth on the Canuck Place Music Therapy program not staying at either of their hospices, as well as bereaved siblings requiring music therapy services, received these via video-conferencing platforms and phone sessions.


The population served in the Music Therapy program at Canuck Place is diverse, including children and youth of all ages and abilities with life limiting conditions and illnesses as well as their family members, e.g. parents, siblings and sometimes extended family members, both prior to the death of their loved one and after, in bereavement.

How does Music Therapy uniquely address the needs of clients at Canuck Place?

Many of the children on the Canuck Place program are non-verbal and use wheelchairs for mobility. Music Therapy uniquely addresses their needs because through these sessions, our children can express themselves without words and thereby communicate their needs. Research shows that heightened anxiety can increase the experience of pain and that clients who participate in Music Therapy sessions experience a lowered sense of anxiety, resulting in a decrease in pain sensation. Children and youth who are at end-of-life and their families find making music or listening to familiar music together is a meaningful way to make lasting memories.

Pillars of Music Therapy Support:

• Normalization: Learning music reinforces the focus that life goes on despite having a terminal illness or condition. When the children are with the music therapist, they experience themselves as musicians – not children with disabilities or life-threatening illnesses.

• Grief and Loss: The therapeutic use of music is integral to our counselling and bereavement services, supporting Canuck Place family members as they cope with the reality of death. Music can offer an unspoken avenue of connection and comfort during this unimaginably difficult time.

• Enjoyment: Music therapy provides young people with physical limitations the opportunity for pleasure and creativity. Using adaptive instruments and electronic equipment, even children with the most debilitating conditions can create music.

• Pain and symptom management: Music can be used as a distraction during uncomfortable medical procedures or for ongoing symptoms. Studies have shown oxygen saturation is increased as well as pain scores, heart rates, and respiration rates are often reduced when pediatric patients listened to live music.

• Anxiety: Music-assisted relaxation or vibro-acoustic music therapy can be used to elicit relaxation responses and in teaching relaxation strategies and reduce anxiety. Observed behavioural distress levels are often decreased.

How has COVID-19 impacted the program?

“We are pleased to share that the Music Therapy program has been offered continuously throughout the pandemic. As per normal, MT services were provided two days a week each at our Vancouver and Abbotsford sites. Extra steps have been taken to follow COVID-19 protocols including sanitizing MT room and equipment/instruments between sessions. The music therapy program has been offered remotely via video-conferencing platforms (e.g. Zoom) from the end of March. Healthy siblings who needed service due to the impact of their brother or sister’s condition or illness on their lives; bereaved siblings; and children and youth on our program but not staying at Canuck Place were offered video sessions as needed. Three monthly large group services were offered to children on our program, their siblings and bereaved siblings via Zoom. In person small group services have not been offered onsite since COVID-19 restrictions were put in place. Family group services have been offered but only in the case of a child or youth on our program being at the end of his or her life and whose family is staying at Canuck Place. Extra steps have been taken to follow COVID-19 protocols including wearing a mask and eye protection throughout the sessions in addition to sanitizing Music Therapy room and equipment/instruments between sessions”

Your support of Canuck Place in 2021 helps to sustain the hours of their Music Therapist at 30 hrs/week. Thanks to Music Heals funding this was an increase as of April 2020 to bring Music Therapy to 4 days rather than the previous 3 days a week in 2019. Sessions will continue to operate 2 days a week at the Abbotsford hospice and 2 days a week at the Vancouver hospice.

As Canuck Place sees an increase in new children and families on the program year over year, they expect additional new participants in both the 1-1 and group sessions. They have seen a steady growth in this vital program and are pleased more children benefit from it with the increased therapist hours. At this time there are no foreseeable plans to hire an additional music therapist.

With the onset of COVID-19, the teams have increased the offering of video and phone counselling and MT sessions beyond regular in-person sessions for children staying in hospice. They expect this trend to continue as the pandemic resumes.

Kashton (pictured above) is a bright-eyed and happy 18-year-old who has been on the Canuck Place program since he was 2 years old and diagnosed with a virus he contracted prior to birth. He is non-verbal and uses a wheelchair for mobility. Kashton has a musical homelife and is thrilled to be part of the music therapy program at the hospice. Playing the electric guitar is his favourite activity, especially if he can play it loudly! Strumming the guitar is therapeutic for him because it requires that he intentionally stretch his arm and hand out over the guitar and bring it back towards him. Kashton is proud of himself when he is successful in creating music this way.

Karin Roberts

Karin Roberts completed her Masters in Music Therapy in 2004 and became an Accredited Music Therapist (MTA) shortly thereafter. She worked in Long-Term Care with older adults from 2004 to 2014, managing the recreation therapy, music therapy and volunteer services department for 5 years. Since 2014, Karin has been the sole Music Therapist at Canuck Place Children’s Hospice. During her time here, the Music Therapy program expanded from offering 15 hours of service per week at one site to 30 hours per week at two sites, in part due to Music Heals funding.

You can help us reach more Canadians with the healing power of music. We invite you to give the gift of music to provide hope, strength, relief and encouragement to Canadians in need.

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