Music Therapy at the End of Life
Music therapy has been proven to offer comfort for those facing end of life symptoms such as pain, fatigue and anxiety. Furthermore, it can assist the patient and their family members with symptoms like nausea, insomnia and appetite loss.
Music therapy is a type of therapeutic intervention that utilizes musical activities and techniques to meet the physical, emotional, social, cognitive, cognitive, and spiritual needs of people of all ages. It’s conducted by board-certified music therapists in a range of clinical settings with various diagnoses.
Music therapists in hospice settings provide holistic care for patients and their families as they approach death. After an assessment of each patient’s needs, a treatment plan is created that takes into account physical, psychological, spiritual, and social aspects of their illness.
Some of the most prevalent issues experienced by patients and their families during this time include grief, depression, fear of death, and dealing with one’s own mortality (Dileo 2005b; Hanser 2005). Many people find comfort in music even in their final moments of life as it helps them cope with these difficult emotions.
Research is emerging on the beneficial effects of music therapy on pain, mood and quality of life in hospice and palliative care settings. However, more study is necessary to fully comprehend its role in end-of-life care settings.
Five studies involving 175 terminally ill patients receiving hospice services examined the effects of music therapy on quality of life, length of stay in care and physical status. Three of these trials offered sessions at home (Hilliard 2003; Lee 2005; Nguyen 2003) while two others provided music therapy in an inpatient hospice setting (Horne-Thompson 2008; Wlodarczyk 2007).
These five studies included adults with various diagnoses, from congestive heart failure to AIDS. On average they were all 68 years old and Caucasian with 51% female and 49% male gender ratios.
Hospice patients were mostly plagued with cancers such as lung, breast, prostate and pancreatic. Other diagnoses included chronic renal failure, AIDS and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
Therefore, music therapists in an end-of-life setting must be able to meet a variety of needs. These could include singing and listening to favorite songs, remembering past experiences or grieving processes, planning funerals or memorial services, as well as providing music for prayer services.
Music therapists in hospice and palliative care settings are commonly referred to as “music chaplains” or spiritual counselors”. These highly trained professionals offer comfort to patients and their families during this difficult period.