A serious illness can be one of the most difficult challenges life can present. For those in hospital, home, convalescent, or hospice care, comfort-oriented massage can relieve stress and anxiety, reduce pain and tension, and provide relaxation. Restorative to both body and spirit, caring human touch offers comfort and solace to those experiencing physical and emotional distress, the loss of function, and the disruption of normal routines.
Enhancing Quality of Life Nurturing, skillful touch can support physical comfort in a number of ways. Massage can reduce muscle tightness and decrease painful swelling caused by fluid retention. It can help a person feel better after invasive treatments. Pressure sores often heal faster and their occurrence decreases as local circulation is gently increased to surrounding tissues. As attention shifts from physical discomfort to pleasurable sensation, the nervous system calms, breathing eases, rest deepens, and pain is relieved or reduced. With an attentive ear and a calm, empathetic touch, a practitioner skilled in comfort massage can also help ease the emotional strain of illness and it consequences. This kind of accepting, non-demanding presence can bridge the isolation and loneliness experienced by one who is ill and bedridden, offering reassurance that they are still touchable regardless of their changing condition.
A Gentle, Adaptable Approach Massage for the seriously ill is not a particular technique, but is an approach that aims to soothe, console, and lift the spirits. As an advanced trained massage therapist, I can draw on the gentlest of techniques to relieve pain and provide reassurance in a wide range of situations. A person who is not in pain may enjoy a full body massage, but often a shorter session, such as a gentle hand, face, or foot massage, may be more comforting. Increased sensitivity to touch can make many standard massage techniques uncomfortable. Broad, encompassing movements, and soothing, but penetrating static pressure are commonly used instead. I specialize in bodywork techniques which adapt well to working with the seriously ill. Comfort massage can be given in almost any setting. The person receiving the massage can be in bed or seated upright in a chair or wheelchair, and may remain fully clothed. While benefits tend to increase with regular sessions, the frequency and length of sessions are based on individual needs.
Touch for the Dying A person approaching death may experience intense and rapidly changing feelings and physical responses. What is wanted or needed one day may not be the same the next. She or he may also experience periods of confusion, or slip in and out of awareness. Caring touch is one way to make a difference in a person's remaining time with accepting and flexible nurturing. If a person wants to focus on staying alert in the present moment, massage can bring one's attention back to the body, to the here and now. If a person is afraid or confused, gentle touch may calm and comfort. Regardless of specific needs, skilled, attentive touch can reassure a person of his or her worth and humanity.
Communication is Vital As therapist trained in working with the seriously ill, I can explain the appropriateness and benefits of comfort-oriented massage for a particular individual. I need to be fully informed about the condition of a person receiving massage, and to hear honest feedback regarding the massage experience. Before an appointment, tell the me about any physical or emotional changes, even if they seem minor. I want to consult with the physician or health care team before proceeding.
Massage for Caregivers Caring for someone who is seriously ill may require demanding physical activities such as lifting or additional housework. An increased workload can result in the loss of sleep and less time to enjoy normal activities. Physical and emotional tension may build. Receiving a massage can ease tension, relieve muscle aches and fatigue, and restore the emotional and physical resources needed to continue giving care in the days or weeks to come.
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