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Ease Suffering with Music

In the growing field of music thanatology, research finds that a patient’s final days can be made easier with music.When aggressive treatments and heroic measures fail, caregivers are left wondering how to minimize loved ones’ suffering. The answer, experts say, may be music. Indeed, a growing number of patient care centers are calling on music thanatologists (thanatology means the study of death) to ease the transition into the next dimension.Unlike music therapy, which uses music to address peoples’ physical, emotional, and cognitive needs, music thanatology comforts dying patients with the soothing notes of a harp and vocal music.“Rather than playing familiar songs or tunes from an era when patients were young, we assess each person’s heart rate, respiration, and vital signs to create a ‘musical prescription,’ tailoring the rhythm, harmony, and melody to what’s happening with the patient physically and emotionally,” explains Jennifer Hollis, certified music thanatologist at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center in Burlington, Massachusetts.And the effects are dramatic.Music as MedicineWith music, patie …

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