‘Music soothes pain’: Cellist plays to ease suffering for end-of-life patients

music care home

Once a week, the rooms of the Jeanne Garnier end-of-life care home in southern Paris reverberate to the sound of a solo cello.

Claire Oppert, a concert cellist trained at the Moscow Conservatory, visits the center on Fridays to play for its residents, many of whom are struggling with physical pain as well as coming to terms with their terminal illness.

“I’m in permanent pain,” said Micheline Leroux, a cancer patient at the Garnier care home, one of the biggest of its kind in Europe.

“But I find that music helps a little to escape the pain,” said Leroux quietly, after listening to a rendition of Albinoni’s Adagio.

“You pay attention, and if it’s a piece you know, you anticipate the next note,” she added.

Besides her weekly recitals, Oppert, 55, has made it her mission to demonstrate the therapeutic effects of music in end-of-life care, by taking part in medical studies.

But staff at the care home are in no doubt.

“After Claire leaves, we find the patients in a calm state, at times moved, at times happy,” said carer Margarita Saldana.

Oppert herself has been playing to patients in end-of-life care for almost a decade since she first visited a nursing home with her cello.

“Music soothes pain, as music decreases their symptoms. In palliative care, in end-of-life care, there is sometimes still pain, in spite of the morphine, in spite of the drugs that really help manage the pain of the patients.”

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