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A Center for Music Therapy at the End of Life

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A Center for Music Therapy at the End of Life

Music can be an incredibly useful asset in hospice and palliative care settings. Not only does it relieve symptoms, meet psychological and spiritual needs, but it also improves quality of life by encouraging communication between patients and their families.

Over the past decade, there has been an escalating interest in music therapy as part of end-of-life care. Studies have demonstrated that this form of therapy can be highly beneficial for palliative care patients and their families (Hilliard 2003; Magill 2001).

End-of-life care aims to relieve physical pain, symptoms, and discomfort caused by illness or injury while simultaneously promoting emotional, psychological, and spiritual well-being. These outcomes are achieved by integrating traditional medical treatment with alternative or complementary modalities like massage therapy, art therapy, aromatherapy, reflexology, therapeutic touch and music therapy.

Research on the effects of music therapy in hospice and palliative care has been limited due to small sample sizes, lack of participant randomization, and limitations in study design (see ‘Characteristics of Included Studies’ table for more details). To further explore these topics it will be necessary to conduct larger studies with randomization of participants and higher levels of control.

At UCLA Medical Center, a randomized trial of music therapy was conducted on hospice in-patients with terminal cancer. Patients included those suffering from cancer, heart failure and renal failure in an adult inpatient unit.

This trial sought to examine the effects of music therapy on pain, anxiety and quality of life among hospice in-patients. Results revealed a statistically significant improvement in these measures for those receiving music therapy compared to those who didn’t.

Furthermore, this study was shorter in duration than most others involving music therapy in hospice, since it included only those patients with terminal diagnoses who were close to death at the time of enrollment. Furthermore, it was impossible to adjust for patients’ terminal diagnoses in this investigation, potentially confounding results.

A focus group of health care practitioners with direct patient roles, including physicians, nurses and social workers was conducted to gain an understanding of their experiences with music therapy in hospice. Utilizing a purposive sampling approach, seven physicians, seven nurses and two social workers who had been directly impacted by the use of music therapy during the trial were recruited at its start and during its first two months. They were asked for their opinion regarding its effectiveness as well as to report on what it’s like being a music therapist in a hospice setting.

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- Welcome, SoundTherapy.com lowers anxiety 86%, pain 77%, and boosts memory 11-29%. Click on the brain to sign up or share with buttons below to help others:
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