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Dr Nigel Osborne’s interaction with Palliative Care patients
WHEN Oct 19 and 21, 2015
WHERE Kuruvinatham and Pillayarkuppam, Puducherry

On 19 and 21 October, 2015, Dr Nigel Osborne, Ms Christine Bain, Ms Emmeline McCraken and Jonathan from Auroville conducted special music sessions for the elderly, chronically bed-ridden and terminally ill patients in Kuruvinatham and Pillayarkuppam villages in Puducherry. There were 17 and 23 participants from Kuruvinatham and Pillayarkuppam villages, respectively. 

Dr Nigel Osborne MBE FRCM is a renowned British composer, music therapist, and global activist.  He has served as Reid Professor of Music at the University of Edinburgh and taught at the Hochschule für Musik, Theater und Medien Hannover. The core of his output is ensemble music, and theatre has played a major role in his work as well. Notable among Dr Osborne’s compositions is Nachiketa, the chamber music opera inspired by Indian mythology. He has been using music and sound therapy to work with special children and children afflicted in war-stricken countries. This October, Dr Osborne conducted a series of music therapy workshops in different units of Sri Aurobindo Society. 

A 33-year-old man, who is partially paralyzed due to a spine injury in an accident, claps along with his favourite Tamil song participating in a music-focused relaxation session. He is exhilarated and does not feel the excruciating pain as he is wont to. An elderly woman in advanced stages of Dementia, who has lost her ability to speak, sings a few words from her favourite lullaby for the participants. A middle-aged amputee man plays the maracas and helps in composing songs. A group of caregivers and volunteers write lyrics and compose songs with guidance and help of music therapists. 

These illustrations demonstrate the pivotal role of music therapy in addressing the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of palliative care patients and families while respecting their dignity and celebrating their lives. A well-established health care practice, music provides pain management and emotional and spiritual therapy for patients while supporting their families. Music therapy offers a compassionate and non-invasive approach to end-of-life care integrating patients’ musical preferences with their cultural background and spiritual beliefs.

The overall objective of this session was to promote relaxation, pain control and a sense of well-being, and by acknowledging and celebrating life, stimulating meaningful memories, bringing loved ones on a single platform and supporting emotional and spiritual expression.

The workshop welcomed palliative care patients, caregivers and volunteers from Kuruvinatham, Soriyankuppam and Pillayarkuppam villages. There were 9 patients, 10 caregivers and 21 volunteers participating proactively throughout the sessions.

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