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Music to our ears

Providence Health Care treats more than the physical needs of patients.

Providence Health Care treats more than the physical needs of patients. It meets psychological, social and spiritual needs too.

Nowhere is that more evident than at its palliative care sites, where music therapists use music’s healing powers to treat mind, body and spirit.

Music therapist Lorri Johnson and Frank, a resident, play a tune together.

Music therapy improves a palliative patient’s quality of life by reducing physical, psychological, social and spiritual distress. Research shows music can manage pain and nausea, reduce anxiety, regulate breathing and diminish disorientation. It offers a sense of control and minimizes loneliness and boredom.

Lucy Thomas, a music therapist who works with palliative care patients at St. Paul’s Hospital, profoundly understands this. She creates legacy CDs of favourite music, specifically composed to celebrate patients’ lives. She’s seen the benefits firsthand.

When Lucy begins a CD project, she talks to the patient about important music in his or her life, selects songs for the CD, and records the patient telling stories along with the songs. Sometimes she composes original songs on guitar.

“Songwriting with patients and creating legacy CDs gives them a sense of purpose,” says Lucy. “It can provide distraction from the hospital environment and elicit feelings of pride, accomplishment and self-worth.” She says bored and sometimes depressed patients come to life during this process.

Lucy says familiar music can transport patients to other places and times. Music restores their humanity and is a powerful way to treat the whole person.