End of Life and Massage
About once a year, I get a call from a family member or friend of someone in the final stages of their life. Whatever the reason their loved one is dying, it’s not a matter of if only when. Usually the friend or family member feels helpless, they would do almost anything to provide comfort but they don’t know how. In the course of the first conversation, the stress and pain of the situation is almost palpable. Desperation and frustration overpower their tone. So, what can a massage therapist do to help?Massage in this situation isn’t about correcting muscular imbalances, fixing anything, or removing adhesions, it’s simply about comfort and bringing peace. It’s gentle and compassionate. It’s usually more spiritual than technical.Frequently the patient is exhausted from being poked and prodded. Family members and friends see their loved one as fragile, breakable, and forget how healing a gentle, loving touch can be. They are worried about hurting their father, mother, or friend and don’t want to cause any more discomfort or pain.My first experience with comfort care was in the hospital of my internship while in massage school. Many of the patients didn't have frequent visitors any longer. They may have been in and out of the hospital so many times family members became immune to another “false call”. We would go into their rooms and provide a massage. For some of the patients, it was their only interaction with someone that wasn't drawing blood, or adjusting something. It was the only touch that was simply about providing them with comfort and relief. However brief it may be. Some weeks, the same patient would be there and their face would light up when they saw me. Sometimes they didn't remember my name or couldn't express their feelings, but they remembered that I made them feel good.Now, most of the comfort care I provide is in home. While the massage itself is for the patient, the benefits are felt by everyone. For some caregivers, it gives them a chance to have some time for themselves. Some use the time to run an errand or two; others have used the opportunity to grab a shower. The time of the massage may simply be a mental break the caregiver needed.It’s a chance for the patient to have something that relieves pain, without the side effects of the medications. It may help to relieve the tension they feel from laying in a bed often in the same position for days. It may be the only opportunity they have to connect their body with their mind. The engagement is usually offered once a week, until the end is reached. Sometimes, it may be twice a week for shorter periods of time. I recommend a massage at least once a week for the duration of life.I don’t advertise comfort care, but if you know someone that may benefit, please give me a call. I offer a discounted rate for the out-call in these special needs situations.