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Music therapy enhances end-of-life care

The work of Dove Palliative Care Unit in Caloundra is firmly etched in the hearts of many. Wishlist has committed to funding a music therapy program for Dove Palliative Care patients nearing end-of-life until 2018, worth more than $44,000.
Music therapist Tracie Wicks spoke to Wishlist about how the program can treat the needs of patients.

Q: Why is your role at Dove so important?

A: I commenced work at Dove in February 2016 working four hours a fortnight. This position, thanks to the generous contribution from Wishlist has grown to 10 hours a week, allowing for greater opportunities to meet the needs of our patients and their families. Music Therapy has become an integral part of the Allied Health Service in the provision of high quality of life therapeutic opportunities for patients and their families.

Q: Can you tell us about some of your memorable patients?

A: Chloe* was a young woman in her early 20s who had a vibrant personality and clear wishes for her funeral. One of her wishes was to record herself rapping one of her favourite songs and for this recording to be played at her funeral. I was privileged to assist in providing the music and technology required to record her rapping this song and for this recording to be made available for Chloe and her family to play at her funeral.

David* was a husband and father to a young four-year-old boy who came to Dove for end of life care. David was very worried about whether his son would remember him and he wanted to leave a legacy about the music and memories of his life. To best support David’s wish to create a lasting document of his thoughts and wishes, I worked with him using the technique of music assisted life review. Music was very important to David and he wanted his son to know the music he loved so together we created a CD and document that outlined music meaningful to him at different stages of his life and memories attached to the music and period of his life. The CD was then compiled and produced to his family.

Q: How does music therapy work?

A: Through a therapeutic relationship and using music based experiences, I can help support patients cognitive, emotional, social, spiritual and physical needs. This can be

Music Therapist Tracie Wicks at Dove Palliative Care.

Photo: Music Therapist Tracie Wicks at Dove Palliative Care.

achieved by providing opportunities for increased feelings of relaxation, enjoyment, emotional and spiritual support as well as supporting family relationships. Music is also a very effective tool for reducing a person’s perception of pain or feelings of anxiety/agitation which can be a common side effect of a terminal illness. Music is an effective tool for patients as it is a safe, positive medium that is strongly linked to our memories and emotions and when used as part of a therapeutic relationship by a skilled practitioner, can greatly enhance a person’s quality of life.

Q: Why did you become a music therapist?

A: I knew from a relatively young age that I wanted a career in music and to help people. I loved engaging in piano and vocal studies throughout my childhood and my favourite concert was the end of year Christmas carols we performed at local nursing homes around the Sunshine Coast. I loved seeing the joy music brought to older adults and I knew that I wanted to live a life that involved music and caring for people.

Q: How do the sessions usually run?

A: After a referral is received, I conduct an assessment session in which I identify a person’s music preferences, their response to music and identify their needs that can be addressed through music therapy. The music selected within sessions is always the

Photo: Patient Louise Pound with Music Therapist Tracie Wicks and daughter Kim.

Photo: Patient Louise Pound with Music Therapist Tracie Wicks and daughter Kim.

patient’s individual choice because it is the meaning attached to musical preferences that produces greater therapeutic outcomes.  After conducting an assessment session I design a Music Therapy Care Plan to address the goals of the program. Within sessions, a variety of techniques may be used and can incorporate song singing, song listening, instrumental play, improvisation, song writing, music assisted relaxation exercises or music assisted life review.  I use a digital piano, acoustic guitar and a variety of percussion instruments within sessions.