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Using music in care for the dying

Integrating music with supportive care of the dying is becoming more common in hospice and palliative care programs. The conscious use of music as an adjunct support service is good example of how the multidisciplinary approach to hospice care seeks to address the total person and their family. There are several ways that music can be of help. This overview will cover the most common uses of music at different stages of the support continuum, ranging from stress relief for the relatively healthy, to bedside support for the acutely dying, the use of music in funerals and memorial services, and as part of supportive care for grief recovery.

Because music reaches a deep, non-rational part of the human spirit, it is ideally suited as an adjunct service that can affect feelings such as grief, fear, anxiety, sadness, and anger that stand in the way of a clear passage. Music can release blocked or painful feelings and can stimulate positive ones such as hope, love, and gratitude. Sharing music together can lead to sharing of the emotions that the music brings up. Acknowledging these emotions together can help bring closure to old issues and enable reflection.

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