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How Can Massage Therapy Help?
With the influx of advanced medical technology and the great variety of drugs available, we tend to forget that the simple, careful touch of the human hand is one of the most ancient and effective means for relieving discomfort in the body. Pain control is often a primary concern for hospice patients, and massage is an excellent nonpharmacological modality for reducing or alleviating pain.
A primary benefit of massage for those who are less mobile or bedridden is its use in helping to prevent pressure sores. Once referred to as "bed sores," these skin ulcerations are most likely to occur over bony areas of the body, such as the tailbone, buttocks, elbows, shoulders and heels, that are in constant contact with a mattress.
Massaging areas of the body that have been most recently under pressure— thus stimulating circulation at the susceptible points, along with encouraging the patient to change positions frequently— has long been recommended in nursing manuals as an aid in preventing pressure sores. The massage therapist can also be on the lookout for reddened, thinning or "hot" areas, and give that area immediate attention.Hospice patients may experience dry or itchy skin as a side effect of inactivity and drug therapy, or as a reaction to body systems beginning to shut down. Such a condition can cause further agitation for a person who is already feeling anxious, weak and vulnerable. A moisturizing massage lotion helps alleviate dry skin. It feels soothing and nurturing, and can help calm a troubled spirit.
How Massage Works in a Hospice Setting
The massage therapists adjust their approach to the needs of the patient. Rarely is this a traditional massage on a table, but can include light massage and gentle touch of the head, hands, and feet. Patients remain clothed and often stay in bed or in a chair.
Massage therapy can relieve pain and tension. Massage can help patients sleep and improve functioning in body systems, such as helping to relieve constipation or reduce edema. It can also promote calmness and can relieve anxiety. The goal is to help patients feel relaxed and peaceful.
More on Massage and Hospice
More on MT and Hospice
Massage is an excellent way to enhance quality of life for a hospice patient. It can help restore feelings of self-acceptance and self-esteem to a person whose body has been invaded by a debilitating, perhaps disfiguring, disease. It addresses feelings of isolation and loneliness. The right touch at the right moment can be far more effective than words in acknowledging a person's suffering, and offering comfort and support.
Touch continues to be an appropriate caregiving technique when a person becomes less responsive or is no longer able to communicate verbally. Touch may even become the primary means of communication at such a turning point.
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