Music therapy in improving the quality of life of palliative care patients: does it work?

Despite recent advances in medicine, patients with advanced illness continue to report high rates of suffering due to psychoexistential concerns such as loss of function, meaninglessness and anxieties in relation to death and dying | BMJ Evidence-Based Nursing blog

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Palliative care recognises the ‘total pain’ experienced by end-of-life patients and supports the use of adjunct complementary therapies to address aspects of patient suffering still outside the remit of medical science and technology.

Music therapy is frequently used as a palliative therapy and entails the use of music to achieve individual goals in the context of a therapeutic relationship with a professional music therapist. Aligning with the goals of palliative care, the primary aim of music therapy is to improve people’s quality of life by relieving physical and psychological symptoms, facilitating communication and alleviating spiritual or existential concerns.

However, there are currently no guidelines in place for the use of music therapy in palliative care. This highlights the need for a stronger evidence base that demonstrates both the benefits and risks to help inform future music therapy provision. To date, primarily because of a lack of robust research, the evidence for music therapy’s effectiveness on patient reported outcomes is positive but weak. Music therapy is an allied health profession and can help a wide range of people affected by illness and disability. It uses musical interaction, and creativity through music, to address a patient’s clinical needs – whether they are psychological, physical, emotional, cognitive or social.

Read the full blog post here

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