How To Fund Music Therapy In Senior Living Communities

You have heard of music therapy and have fallen in love. You want to make this valuable service available to your clients or loved ones. So now maybe you are wondering:

How are we going to pay for this?

The answer is a bit complex, because the main payor source for healthcare for people over age 65 – Medicare – does not reimburse music therapy directly. That does not mean, however, that music therapy is out of reach unless you have vaults full of cash.

In this post, I focus on how senior living communities fund music therapy services for their residents. In future posts, I’ll cover funding options for hospice, home care, and private individuals seeking music therapy services.

Senior living communities most often fund music therapy services out of their organization budgets.

This includes all of our clients at Soundscaping Source, and it’s for a good reason. Music therapists provide great value for your organization by meeting two major needs for your community and your residents:

  1. The need for appropriate, individualized activities
  2. The need for expertise related to resident care and the use of available resources

Let’s address those separately:

The need for appropriate, individualized activities

Senior living communities have to provide meaningful activities for their residents, but many communities struggle with this. Residents have wide-ranging interests, needs, and abilities, making it difficult to structure activity programs that work for everyone. This is true even in communities that focus on enriching environments and individual or small group activities rather than the traditional large group, scheduled activities.

Music therapists are your lifesavers when it comes to individualized activities, because we are masters at meeting everyone in the moment, adapting music experiences so that everyone can participate in the music together.

Even beyond that, music therapists can address care plan goals beyond simple enjoyment of music, such as decreasing depression and anxiety, improving range of motion, decreasing the confusion and agitation that comes with sundowning, and providing social interaction and cognitive stimulation.

Okay, so now you’re thinking, “We can hire a music therapist to help residents with agitation, but is she going to be there in the middle of the night when Betty can’t sleep? Or can he play guitar and sing for Harry until he falls asleep every afternoon at 2 pm? There’s no way we can pay for that!”

No, you probably can’t have a music therapist there to facilitate meaningful, shared music experiences on demand whenever they are needed. But you CAN draw on the expertise of your music therapist so that your caregivers CAN provide appropriate musical interventions whenever and wherever they are needed. That gets us to the second major need music therapists can address:

The need for expertise related to resident care and the use of available resources

Let’s face it. You’ve probably got some people and resources that you could be using more effectively to meet your residents’ needs. Wouldn’t you prefer to have your staff using these resources to their full extent?

  • Entertainment budget
  • iPod program
  • Music library
  • Musician volunteers

Music therapists can help you to use your people and your dollars most efficiently to meet the needs of your residents, using their professional expertise and, if applicable, their knowledge of your residents’ needs based on their interactions in music therapy sessions. They can put together a playlist for Harry and teach your CNAs how to use it so Harry can get that nap. And they can help you identify the local entertainers that put on a good show and engage residents.

Music therapists help you meet your residents’ needs AND use your resources wisely. That’s worth the expense.

And here’s even better news:

Music therapy minutes can be documented on the MDS 3.0.

While there is still not a direct connection between providing music therapy and increasing your reimbursement or RUG levels, we are headed that direction, since you can now accurately document the services you are providing to your residents. You can find more details on documenting music therapy on the MDS 3.0 here.

Other funding sources

Perhaps you are still looking to increase the level of support you can get from a music therapist, beyond what you can work out in your organizational budget. If so, here are a few more ideas:

Grants – Many not-for-profit organizations get their music therapy programs started through grant funding. If you’re a not-for-profit organization seeking music therapy services or consultation support from a music therapist, contact your favorite music therapist to discuss collaboration on a grant writing project.

Private Pay for Individuals – This means family members pay the fees associated with their loved one’s music therapy. Here at Soundscaping Source, we are happy to take referrals for residents who will pay privately for music therapy, and with the appropriate permission, we will work with your organization to coordinate care.

Private Pay for Groups – This allows families to share the expense with each one paying a small fee for their loved one to participate in the group. Senior living communities may also choose to subsidize part of the music therapists’ fees, to decrease the portion that residents must pay.

Hospice services – Many hospices send music therapists to work with their patients who live in your community. While music therapists cannot legally provide free professional services for your residents who are not on their hospice’s service, they can (and should) coordinate care with your staff to make sure your residents on hospice are getting the full benefit of the music therapist’s expertise. Not sure whether your resident’s hospice provides music therapy? Just ask.

As you can see, the value that a music therapist will bring to your organization makes this budgeting choice an easy one.

Ready to bring music therapy to your residents? If you’re in the Kansas City metro area, we are ready to serve you. Contact us for more information.

Leave a Comment