Soothing Sounds: an Investigation into the Value of Music in Palliative Care
Music has almost turned full circle in its application for people whose physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being needs to be addressed, particularly in palliative care. Music has been used for centuries to enhance everyday life, and offer therapeutic properties to heal the body and the soul. Since the development of palliative care as a specialised area of medicine and nursing in the 1970s there has been an increased awareness in providing total or holistic care. This acknowledges the patient as a whole person, and the multitude of difficulties that patients and their families may face. Music can be useful in helping individuals to cope with the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual pain that accompanies dying. Because of music's non-threatening nature, it can often 'speak' where words are sometimes difficult. Music is tied closely to human emotions, and often music can be the catalyst to 'lift the lid' off these emotions in a safe, supportive environment. This qualitative study focuses on van Manen's theory of the 'lived experience' in relation to two families and asks the first thesis question. What is the value of music in the care of someone who is dying? Over the course of their loved one's illness these families provided music in the patients home as part of their care. The study also captures the experiences of two nurses who work in the palliative setting, and their use of music in providing holistic care to their patients. Their experiences relate to the second question. How can nurses be assisted in introducing music into their planned care of patients? The results demonstrate the effectiveness of using taped music for someone who is dying, and the reduction in symptoms, such as anxiety, and pain. It also highlights the importance of the individual's choice, and the special moments that can be achieved for both patient and families when music is used in a caring, supportive environment. This encourages communication, especially in the sharing of emotions. This study may be the first qualitative study in New Zealand, that addresses the value of music in palliative care, therefore there is a need for continued research into this therapy as a treatment modality as part of planned care in palliative nursing.