Give Patients A Lift With Music…a hospice story

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Vitas Innovative Hospice Care in Miami, Florida has a music appreciation program where volunteers share their musical talents with hospice patients throughout Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.

Volunteers include non-professional singers, certified music therapists, and those with a passion for music and wish to share their talents with patients experiencing end-of-life matters.  According to one certified music therapist volunteer, Jeff Engel, he uses music familiar to patients in order to give them a cognitive workout.  Through his experience,  he found “familiar music and familiar conversation about things that were important to patients many years ago often helps to retard the degeneration of cognitive impairment.”  To read the full story, click here.

In healthcare, scientific evidence of the usefulness or efficacy of medical and non-medical interventions has long been a requirement, and these principles applies to incorporating arts interventions in healthcare.  An article titled “Music Therapy in Hospice and Palliative Care: a Review of the Empirical Data” examines 11 research studies on the effects of music with patients.  Of the 11 studies, 6 are identified as having significant differences supporting the use of music therapy for patients with terminal illnesses.

Reported benefits of music therapy by patients are:

  • Significant decrease in painPre-test and post-test measurements using Short-Form McGill Pain Questionnaire.
  • Improvement in mood and anxiety, and decrease in discomforts .
  • Increase spiritual well-beingMany times people with end-of-life conditions request spiritual or religious music.  One study measured spirituality with the 18-item Spiritual Well-Being Scale (SWBS) and completed by patients after each music therapy session.  Analysis showed a significant increase in SWBS scores on the days music therapy was provided.
  • Enhanced quality of lifeInterestingly, the more music therapy sessions patients received, higher quality of life is experienced even as their physical condition declined.  The quality-of-life tool used in this study was the Hospice Quality-of-Life Index-Revised (HQOLI), a 29 questionnaire completed by patients.  Source: Hilliard R. Music Therapy in Hospice and Palliative Care: a Review of the Emirical Data.  Music Department , State University of New York, New Paltz, NY.  eCAM 2005; 2(2) 173-178.  doi:10.1093/ecam/neh076

Although the above studies had small sample sizes thereby limiting generalization, the author of the article, Russell Hilliard, stresses the importance of designing music therapy studies that allow for generalization of the results.  And why is all this scientific inquiry in hospice and palliative care important?  Here are a few reasons:

  1. Insurance companies (federal, state and private) seek data/information on the efficacy or effectiveness of a treatment.
  2. Because complementary programs such as music therapy, creative programs, etc. need funding, healthcare administrators  need assurance these programs will enhance and raise the standard of care for patients, families and communities.
  3. If healthcare organizations truly want to be innovative, creative and provide patient-centered care, then a willingness to explore, experiment and research other avenues of treatment modalities is necessary.  ‘Patient-centered care’ is a call to action, not a trendy catch-all phrase mouthed by the healthcare industry and healthcare professionals.
  4. Evidence based practice helps to establish effective treatment interventions or best practices in ensuring high standard of care.

One response to “Give Patients A Lift With Music…a hospice story

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