Therapeutic music is offered as a service (not a performance) to the ill in hospitals and other facilities, to the elderly in assisted living and nursing or convalescent centers, and to the dying in hospice. Often this music is played at the bedside. Because the music is not entertainment, the patient is not expected to respond to the musician with applause. Instead, the patient can simply listen to the music, and may even be asleep. The patient may request that the music be stopped at any time. The focus is on the patient’s needs, but family members, visitors, and caregivers may also receive benefits from this music.
"How we care for the sick and dying, no matter how they contracted their disease, is a matter of our own personal responsibility and a collective measure of our humanity."
— David Aldridge, Music Therapy in Palliative Care: New Voices
According to Alicia Ann Clair in her book Therapeutic Uses of Music with Older Adults, music used during surgical and medical procedures helps patients to relax by the following methods:
- Establishing a comfortable, familiar environment in the hospital or other facility
- Initiating positive and pleasant experiences in a setting usually associated with physical pain and feelings of anxiety
- Structuring the time patients must wait before, during, and after procedures
- Offering a distraction from the procedure
- Quieting the effects of the bustling routines of the medical facility
Music is a viable approach to maintaining the quality of life of people receiving palliative care for several reasons, according to Clair, including:
- Providing a basis for reminiscence and life review
- Providing a means for relating to others
- Offering distraction from physical pain and discomfort
- Providing emotional comfort and relief from anxiety
- Providing enjoyment
- Providing release in the last hours of life
The medical effects of therapeutic music are still being explored. However, recent scientific studies support the premise that live music can assist in:
- Pain reduction and management.
- Blood pressure reduction.
- Reduction of patient anxiety.
- Reduction of pharmacological drug dosages required for pain, anesthesia, and other medical objectives.
- Relaxation of voluntary and involuntary muscles.
- Memory recall for dementia patients.
Some of the results of these studies can be found on the web site for Music for Healing and Transition Program.
David Aldridge (editor), Music Therapy in Palliative Care: New Voices
Stella Benson, The Healing Musician - A Guide to Playing Healing Music at the Bedside
Alicia Ann Clair, Therapeutic Uses of Music with Older Adults
Susan B. Hanser, The New Music Therapist’s Handbook
Robert Jourdain, Music, the Brain, and Ecstasy
Deforia Lane, Music as Medicine
Candace B. Pert, Molecules of Emotion
Dale B. Taylor, Biomedical Foundations of Music as Therapy
Links Related to Healing Music:
Music for Healing and Transition Program: http://www.mhtp.org/
International Healing Musician’s Program: http://www.healingmusician.com/index.html
Music Therapy Resources:
Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic environment. Music therapy is applied by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program. I am not a music therapist, but for those interested the following are some excellent resources.
American Music Therapy Association: http://www.musictherapy.org/
World Federation of Music Therapy: http://www.wfmt.info/
Music Therapy Source: http://www.musictherapysource.com/