The soothing role of music at end-of-life

Music has become such an important part of our lives that it is hard to imagine living without it. From a catchy song that always remains in your head to a tune that makes you dance – or at least makes you tap your feet to the beat – it’s an integral part of our day-to-day lives.

We have known for a long time that music has the power to enhance our lives and increase emotional and spiritual healing. It’s an important part of our celebrations and transitions in life. And the same can be said of our final transition from this life, which is a time when music can be used to provide peace and comfort not only to the dying but to family members as well. 

To help hospice patients process their emotions and make the most out of their final days, music is often used. In fact, in a study from Brown University, patients receiving palliative care reported less pain, anxiety and feelings of depression after listening to music. 

Why does music help end-of-life? 

According to new research, one crucial sense is still functioning as humans lay dying: hearing. Even if the body has become unresponsive, the brain will still register the last sounds a person will ever hear. According to a study, actively dying hospice patients, while unable to respond to the verbal stimuli from family, were still able to hear and give neural responses to simple auditory stimuli. This is consistent with the belief that hearing is one of the last senses to lose function when a person is dying. 

4 ways music can help with end of life 

1) Music calms agitation and anxiety 

Many physical and emotional changes occur when a person is dying that can cause great discomfort and confusion. This is especially true for patients with metastatic cancer, who may be agitated and anxious as they begin to lose control of their bodily functions. Studies show music can help reduce these negative emotions. In fact, researchers found that the patients receiving music therapy were able to have fewer episodes of agitation and anxiety than those not receiving it.

2) Music helps people process emotions 

When a person is dying, it is common to feel many emotions, from sadness and anxiety to fear and anger. Music can help shepherd people through all of these difficult emotions and help them find some peace. While music can’t change what’s happening to a person’s body, it can help people work through their emotional reactions to their situation. 

In fact, one study proved its effectiveness by showing that music therapy helped patients better cope with their end-of-life conditions. The patients who received music therapy were able to feel less sad, felt more positive emotions, and were able to process their emotions in a positive way.

3) Music can help remind people of special moments

Music can help patients remember the good times in their lives, which can provide comfort during a difficult time. Most people, after all, have a few favorite memories of special events and holidays, like weddings or parties. One study that examined the effects of music therapy in terminally ill patients found that this type of therapy promotes reminiscence and positive mood among patients. 

Music helps terminally ill people recall memories that are pleasant and positive, as well as happy moments that are significant to them.

4) Music may help reduce physical pain

People often feel intense pain when they are dying and near the end of life. According to some experts, music can release endorphins, which control how we perceive pain. Since there are more endorphins, less pain is felt.

In fact, serotonin, the happy hormone, is releasedwhen enjoying your favorite music. Music may literally boost someone’s spirits and brighten someone’s day. Music therapy can assist patients in shifting their attention from their symptoms to pleasant memories and associations in order to manage chronic pain, such as discomfort at the end of life.

The use of music to help with end-of-life care has been proven effective in a variety of studies. Using music therapy as an important part of your loved one’s care can promote peace and comfort, helping them feel less anxious and agitated. It can also help them work through the painful emotions that come with facing their death. The right song can even remind them of the good times in their lives, providing a much-needed reminder that they are loved and that they were able to accomplish many things with the time they did have.