Music Therapy in Wales: an update

Music Therapy in Wales

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September 2016 update

In February 2016 a pilot project was launched at Nightingale House Hospice in Wrexham, North Wales. The hospice provides specialist palliative care to patients and their families, and the pilot project was delivered by therapist Charlotte Bailey. Following the successful pilot project, in June the hospice decided to continue with the service. Thanks to support and recommendation from senior managers at Nightingale House Hospice, a second pilot project began in September 2016 at another Welsh hospice (St Kentigern Hospice, Denbighshire ), also delivered by Charlotte.   

Charlotte talks about her experiences at Nightingale House Hospice.

“Nightingale House has a day care service as well as an inpatient unit and a bereavement support service for families and children. The music therapy timetable is flexibly planned at the beginning of the day in order to meet the potential for changing and varying needs of patients throughout the day. Generally the timetable consists of:

  • Individual sessions on the ward in patients’ rooms
  • Individual sessions in the conservatory for day care patients and outpatients
  • Closed group sessions, usually with patients and family members
  • Open group session in the day care lounge, involving patients and staff.

In liaison with the social workers, I have also worked with children and adults who are receiving bereavement support. The non-verbal nature of music therapy helped children who initially struggled to talk to feel more confident in the hospice surroundings, and to experience a less exposing way of expressing their feelings. Children have then gone on to open up in their bereavement sessions, and this has been greatly appreciated by families:

“Music therapy helped this young girl’s mum to feel that her daughter would be able to open up and talk to both myself and her family. It also helped to the family to know that the young girl was enjoying herself during the session and showed happiness which is something they had not seen for a while.” 

Social Worker at Nightingale House Hospice

To be in a position where I can offer music to patients and their families as they face the challenges of terminal illness is something that is hard to put into words, but I think the word that I would choose is ‘special’. To be allowed the privilege of sitting at someone’s bedside during their final days and singing in time with their breathing to offer them connection and comfort. To let them know that in music therapy they can affect the music and have some control when everything else seems to be out of their control. To be asked by family members if they can have a recording of a session so that they have something special to remember their loved one.

Music therapy can draw out and celebrate the part of a person that is still healthy, it offers a new way for patients to communicate if they are unable to use words, and it can reconnect families with each other. It allows them to see what their loved one is still able to do and how they can still contribute despite their illness. For patients, it can offer them a space where the focus is not on their illness, but is on what they are still able to do.

Everyone has a musical past, whether they have played an instrument or not. It could be a well-loved rugby anthem or singing a song by their favourite band that connects them to their musical identity.

“It has been wonderful to witness Charlotte work with groups and individuals. She has been able to work in such varied ways according to different needs. For example, enabling a really poorly woman who has always loved music play music one week from her bed (the best part of her day, the patient reported), to playing gentle guitar while the same patient's family sat with her during her final days the following week. She has lifted the mood of a poorly gentleman by playing his beloved rugby anthem and helping him reconnect with those around him, and helped put a patient’s poetry to music, boosting this gentleman's confidence. These are just a few examples.”

Nurse at Nightingale House Hospice

I’ve been invited to present some of my work at the All Wales Palliative Care Conference in November, and I am really looking forward to this opportunity to raise awareness of the benefits of music therapy in palliative care.”

“It is therapeutic, there’s no doubt about it.”

Patient at Nightingale House Hospice