Music as a Therapeutic Resource in End-of-Life Care

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Abstract

Music has been used in a variety of settings by nurses and other providers to ease their patients’ physical, emotional, and spiritual distress. In end-of-life settings, music has been shown to improve quality of life. Nurses have noted the usefulness of music in practice but perceive that they have limited knowledge and skills about how to use music and lack the resources to implement its use. Drawing on knowledge from music therapy and music-thanatology, we describe the receptive approach to the use of music in palliative care and hospice settings. This approach is characterized by active listening and using techniques that are accessible to nurses who may not have music training. Nurses can help patients select music that evokes memories or feelings and helps divert their attention from emotional and physical distress. Music may be an effective tool for reviewing one’s life, through which a patient moves toward acceptance of death by giving meaning to his or her life. Near the end of life, prescriptive music may be used during bedside vigils to accompany the patient in the transition from life to death.

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