Paliative Care

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One very valuable and often overlooked tool for palliative care is massage.  Geriatric massage can help ease pain and suffering, increase flexibility, improve muscle tone, aid circulation and proper digestion as well as giving comfort and ease.  Additionally, the positive human contact offered through warm supportive touch can help lift feelings of loneliness and isolation much the way an affectionate pet or regular visits from loved ones can. 
    A qualified massage therapist will certainly consider any contraindications in the form of diseases or medication and will also be sure to give a slow, gentle massage mindful of the fine muscles and more fragile bones that often accompanies age and chronic disease.  The patient also will need to be encouraged to communicate clearly any particular needs and alert the therapist if any of the massage strokes are at all uncomfortable. 
    Since some palliative care patients may have never received therapeutic massage or might be particularly modest,  respect and attention needs to be given to the level of dress preferred by the patient.  Massage can be effective and beneficial even  given a fully clothed patient by way of chair massage.  A massage chair is also an easy and effective solution for patients suffering from COPD and other conditions that make a fully reclined position ill advised. For others who’s conditions prohibit full body massage a warm and gentle hand or foot massage can still be effective in easing suffering, giving comfort, and delivering supportive human contact.
    With appropriate modifications regular massage can be integrated into palliative care, easing the passage to death in a way that improves quality of life both physically and emotionally.  It is my hope that nurses and caretakers will seriously consider including regular therapeutic massage in the care regime for the chronically and terminally ill.

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