“As well as making us feel good all over, music can reduce pain and increase the appetite in dementia.”

- James Carleton ABC Radio National 'God Forbid'

Music and Healing Kirsty Beilharz in interview with James Carleton (Sunday 23 April 2017 6:10AM)

Listen to whole episode Music and healing, Muslims in the media (Sunday 23 April 2017)



Music can carry associated feelings of:

• belonging
• reassurance
• acceptance
• hope
• forgiveness
• acquiescence
• compassion
• peace
• resolution in relationships
• purpose, meaning and context in the vast cosmos and plane of time.

“Music is a birthright of humanity.”

— Laurie Riley, Body, Mind and Music. (Denver, CO, USA: Harps Nouveau, 2010), 4. 

MusicalInstrumentsForPeopleWithDementiaNeeds often treated by music therapists in end-of-life care include:

• the social (e.g. isolation, loneliness, boredom)

• emotional (e.g. depression, anxiety, anger, fear, frustration)

• cognitive (e.g. neurological impairments, disorientation, confusion)

• physical (e.g. pain, shortness of breath)

• spiritual (e.g. lack of spiritual connection, need for spiritually-based rituals).

— Amy Clements-Cortes, ‘The use of music in facilitating emotional expression in the terminally ill,’ American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Vol. 21, No. 4 (July-August 2004): 255-60.
— J. Cunliffe, ‘Reflections on pain management: a case study,’ International Journal of Palliative Nursing, (October 9 2003): 449-53.
— C. C. O'Callaghan, ‘Communicating with brain-impaired palliative care patients through music therapy,’ Journal of Palliative Care Vol. 9, No. 4 (Winter 1993): 53-55.
— Deborah Salmon, ‘Music and emotion in palliative care: Accessing inner resources’ in (ed.) C. A. Lee, Lonely Waters. (Oxford UK: Sobell Publications, 1995): 71–85.


[Music assists with] "anxiety, stress, pain management, grief and also provide beauty, peace and comfort."
— Alison Ware
 therapeutic harpist
— 'The emerging field of harp therapyand its clinical applications' 
Journal of the Australasian Rehabilitation Nurses' Association 
(JARNA), 2013; 16(2): 15-17.


"The spiritual dimension focuses on meaning of life, hope and purpose, explored through relationships with others, with the natural world and with the transcendent."
— Harriet Mowat and Maureen O’Neill, Insights: Spirituality and Ageing – Implications for the care and support of older people, Vol. 19 (Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services, January, 2013), http://www.iriss.org.uk.


Music Remembers Me Kobo Kindle iBooks


Dementia may affect:

People living with dementia may experience Hyperacusis "reduced tolerance to specific sounds and sound levels that are not normally regarded as loud" — specific frequencies (pitches and sound qualities).

"A condition of heightened alertness, awareness, interest, and excitement; 
a generally enhanced state of being" 

— Anthony Storr Music and the Mind

DementiaCarePotential benefits of music for people with dementia:

Schopenhauer, Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, Freud and Jung, said the metaphysical quality of music permeating inner life (inhabiting spiritual vitality) creates meaning and passion
Nietzsche went so far as to say that music made life worth living.


Viola"To express yourself as you are is the most important thing"
— Shunryu Suzuki
, Buddhist monk, author


“Quality of care is the degree to which acceptable standards are met or exceeded in relation to physical, personal, psychological, spiritual and socio-cultural care and support”
— Australian Aged Care Quality Agency

“Quality of life … refers to the experience of well-being and overall enjoyment of … lifestyle.”
— Department of Health and Ageing, Australian Government Canberra

“Music enhances the brain’s ability to learn.”
— Laurie Riley, Body, Mind and Music. (Denver, CO, USA: Harps Nouveau, 2010), 5, referring to Don Campbell, The Mozart Effect.


Beethoven said music was the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual:

"one incorporeal entrance into the higher world of knowledge which comprehends mankind but which mankind cannot comprehend".

“It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.”

 — Albert Einstein





Tess Howgate Eternity News




ADM 2019 School of Theology, Culture & Public Engagement

Masterclass: Music and theology in palliative careand dying well

Kirsty’s masterclass at the STCPE will explore the areas of Music and Theology with reference to palliative care contexts and the question of dying well. We will touch on the broader context of positive ageing and inclusive engagement for people with dementia. This masterclass will be of particular interest to people involved in pastoral care, caring for an older person, and musicians and those who want to minister through music. No prior musical experience is required, however people who are keen apply some practical methods are encouraged to bring along their musical instrument.


Anglican Deaconess Ministries Senior Creative Fellowship - Meaningful and memorable: Music vigil

'Meaningful and memorable: Music vigil' is a creative project to compose and record instrumental music, intended as a vigil to support emotional and spiritual needs of the person at the end of life, as well as their family and friends. The aim is to help people experience a serene, dignified death. Drawing from cross-cultural palliative care and clinical musicianship experience, this project develops a digital recording using instruments traditionally associated with healing (harp, recorder, Japanese shakuhachi flute, and viola). The musical vigil is a sacred space for contemplation, relaxation, reconciliation and dying well. Music has been shown to reduce pain, agitation, anxiety, and to provide an atmosphere for deep calm reverie and emotional expression, especially if words have gone due to dementia, frailty, medication or disease progression. Music can be restorative and peaceful for the embodied soul. Socially, we are poor at preparing for and talking about death, and dying can instil fear and mystery. Its setting may vary from home palliative care, to a nursing home, hospice or hospital, however most people are unanimous that the ideal death for those in palliative care should be dignified – that is, safe, relaxed, accepting, free from suffering, memorable for those around and spiritually significant. This resource is intended for use by medical staff, pastoral carers, clergy, family and friends to enable someone to live richly until their very last breath. While music therapy is sometimes engaged earlier in healthcare, there is an absence of supportive music for the specific, delicate and significant time of passing from life to death.

Engage Evening Presentation: Music Vigil: Meaningful
and Memorable and How to Die Well

What is your idea of a “good death”?

What to expect ... preparation ... spiritual growth and maturation ... planning a meaningful experience ... music thanatology and how music can help. Historical Ars Morendi and Codices of Dying in ancient cultures.

Re-thinking and de-medicalising palliative care upon the 100th anniversary of Dame Cicely Saunders' birth (the founder of the Hospice movement and founder of palliative care in the UK).

Re-appraising what is meaningful and a theological perspective on worth and human dignity.


Australian Centre for Wesleyan Research 2018 conference.

I presented ‘Flourishing until death: living well until the very end’ on palliative care and pastoral theology oriented towards quality of life, including some insights on spiritual growth and maturity, sanctification and resignation (or surrendering to God) written by Charles Wesley.

Supporting people receiving dementia and palliative care services has highlighted contemporary Western Society’s dereliction of dying well and flourishing until the very end of life. Cultural aversion to meaningful conversations about death has generated social stigma and silence on the subject of natural death, and especially its spiritual significance as the final stage of human growth, when a person prepares spiritually for restoration, healing, bodily resurrection, and ultimate reunion with God in the perfected reality He promises. Our fiercely autonomous, financially secure and technological post-Enlightenment milieu advocates the control of timing, location and conditions of death (for example through euthanasia and cultural defiance of natural ageing and disease progression).

Society has lost touch with the physical, psychosocial and spiritual experience of dying well. Palliative care has commonly been relinquished to professionals and institutions, which disconnects an individual from the opportunity for prayer, reflection, reconciliation of relationships, pastoral support and intercession, seeking forgiveness, and sometimes resists conscious comfortable passing. This paper considers death’s stages, and facilitation of interaction with friends and relatives, communion with God, and acknowledgement of the individual as community responsibilities, i.e. ways that meaning, dignity and growth can nurture the process of human flourishing until its spiritual conclusion.


ACOM/SCD Ageing Conference Keynote address Ageing Conference

Ageing well: music and meaning in dementia and de-medicalising palliative care

With approximately 30% of Australians over the age of 85 experiencing dementia (approximately 425,000 Australians), dementia has become the second-leading cause of death in Australia (the first for women). It affects the social fabric, costing more than $15 billion, while the greatest emotional burden is borne in families and relationships. In palliative care, more than 90% of admissions for symptom management and end of life care are for people with cancer, the majority of whom are elderly. As the increasingly ageing population receives care in a variety of organisational settings, from community care agencies in the home to nursing homes, hospitals, and hospices — sometimes for years — how can we best help people age well, which means living well to the very end? This paper draws on three studies: one using music engagement in dementia care; one evaluating the impact of music on psycho-social, physical, and spiritual dimensions of wellness amongst people receiving palliative care services; and one using participatory arts groups in the general ageing population.

This paper considers ways that interdisciplinary and integrative care can attend to the psychological, spiritual, and social needs of people that are not addressed by the medical model of care. Our recent studies report the first-hand experiences of people living with dementia and terminal illness on the sources of meaning and purpose in older age. 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Dame Cicely Saunders, who founded the Hospice Movement in the UK, and pioneered a de-medicalised model of palliative care, which recognised the importance of quality of life over duration. Saunders — driven by her own theology — highlighted the fact that chemotherapeutic treatments and some other medical interventions can cause more harm and suffering than life quality, and that the needs of people near the end of life include beauty, serenity, tranquility and reflective space. It seems timely to revisit the primary purpose and interdisciplinary delivery of care as people live longer and therefore increasingly contend with age-related illness, isolation, and simultaneously assert preference for independent living, ageing in place (at home), and consumer-driven choice in aged care. It cannot be ignored that the quality with which we deliver dementia care and palliative care has the potential to provide choice, control, and life flourishing which alleviates the desperation, suffering and lack of control that drive people to explore euthanasia. A theology grounded in the selfless, boundless love of the Gospel, and the intrinsic worth of humans created in God’s image, rather than the zeitgeist's ephemeral, materialistic measure of productivity, underpins the provision of life care and life quality throughout every season, irrespective of an individual’s physical or cognitive frailty.


'Refuel' Presentation on Mental Health with Sarah Condie & Sam Gempton, Church by the Bridge & St. Augustine's

Things that are good for mental health ... understanding the psychological self ... Biblical encouragement ... recognising mental ill-health for family and friends as well as the individual.

Wellness Book

Wellbeing, Personal Wholeness and the Social Fabric: An Interdisciplinary Approach

Book Chapter: Kirsty Beilharz, “Grace and Nurture: Connecting and Engaging through Music in Dementia Care,” in Doru Costache, Darren Cronshaw, and James R. Harrison (Ed.s),
Wellbeing, Personal Wholeness and the Social Fabric: An Interdisciplinary Approach (Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2017, ISBN-13: 978-1-4438-9858-4) pp. 184-208.