Why does music help in care?
Because it is comforting.
Music provides an emotional blanket
- Shapes clinical spaces
- Helps to make meaning
- Supports rituals, beliefs, values
Making clinical care spaces feel homey and comforting can be a challenge. Particularly in the midst of overcrowded care spaces like hospitals, emergency rooms, nursing homes and shelters, the fast-paced environment itself can be a cause of added stress.
Introducing music into care spaces with thoughtful intention can alter the overall tone of an environment. It can help create meaning for people receiving care, particularly if musical choices are made to reflect the kinds of emotional experiences they want. For example, when someone is at the end of life in a noisy hospital ward, playing music that has been cherished throughout their lives can provide immense validation and comfort to the patient and loved ones. It can connect them to their selfhood and create a shared focus that transcends the frenzy of the hospital ward.
Some of life’s most challenging experiences take place within the context of health or home care, and creating rituals, big or small, is an innately human way of managing life’s challenges. Music has been used to enhance formal and informal rituals throughout human history - be it from singing a prayer, having a “first dance” at a wedding, or spontaneously singing “Amazing Grace” during a vigil, music enhances ritual. By introducing music into care settings, we provide the opportunity to create rituals where they may otherwise be lacking. In the midst of a challenging diagnosis, we can sing a comforting song; during a morning dressing change or washing, we can incorporate a personalized playlist; at the end of a difficult shift, a health care worker can ceremoniously listen to a piece of music during their drive home.