Hospice massage provides physical, emotional, and spiritual support for the struggles of coping with end of life illness. Our approach is to provide both medical knowledge and compassionate care to improve the quality of life for our patients. Every visit is customized to the current needs of our patient, whether it is relieving stress, addressing pain, preventing pressure sores, or providing the simple, yet dramatic, therapeutic effects of touch. It is important for us to be creative and flexible in our clients’ unique situations, providing the best care possible with a professional and empathetic approach. There are several massage modalities that can be incorporated specifically into the needs of the hospice care patient.
Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) is a technique used frequently in the hospice and palliative care field. Many cancer patients develop edema in their upper and lower extremities. MLD simply moves the fluid out. The results can be instantaneous when this technique is used correctly. Many patients with edema fear they can’t be touched and nothing can be done to help them but this technique has had some astounding results.
Reflexology is also used. The massage therapist uses a thumb walking technique which applies pressure to the many nerve endings of the hands or the feet, or the ears of the receiver. This thumb pressure stimulates nerve endings, sends an impulse to the spinal nerves that reach nerve endings of internal organs, glands, and boney structures (like the hip or the shoulder). Not only do the impulses relax the whole nervous system, they can interrupt pain impulses helping to reduce pain sensation.
Therapeutic touch is another massage modality that can relieve the physical discomforts brought on by illness. Hospice patients face so much change and uncertainty, the experience of worry causes the nervous system to be uniquely taxed. This level of stress literally causes physical symptoms. Therapeutic touch can be just holding a patient’s hand or stroking their hair. It can be used to quickly calm the overtaxed nervous system.
Patients generally report better pain control and increased quality of life after receiving hospice massage. Less medication is one of the great benefits of massage therapy and this is a strong testament to the type of work we do and the results we can achieve.