Massage & Bodywork

November/December 2013

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TEN FOR TODAY Strategies for Working with Senior Clients By Rebecca Jones 1. CONSIDER THE 10,000 Massage therapists looking to expand their client base would do well to consider working with the elderly. "Since 2011, 10,000 people have been turning 65 every day," says Sharon Puszko, PhD, owner and director of DayBreak Geriatric Massage Institute, who has been training massage therapists to work with elderly clients for more than 20 years. "That's a lot of business out there. In the past, seniors didn't want to spend a lot of money on themselves, but seniors today don't have that problem. They're more aware of caring for themselves." 2. IMPROVE BALANCE Massage can benefit the elderly in ways that go beyond relieving stiff muscles. Evidence suggests that welcome touch improves emotional health, and it may even help elderly clients prevent a potentially devastating fall. "There's evidence to suggest that massage to feet and legs may improve elders' balance," says Ruth Werner, author of A Massage Therapist's Guide to Pathology (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2009). "It's difficult to conclusively demonstrate that massage prevents falls, but we can demonstrate an improvement in balance." 3. CALM DEMENTIA Sadly, dementia is a fact of life for a significant portion of the geriatric population, especially those living in long-term care facilities, where as many as 60–70 percent may suffer some cognitive impairment. "If you work in elder care or hospice, you will work with people with dementia," says Ann Catlin, founder and director of the Center for Compassionate Touch in Springfield, Missouri. Some research suggests that massage can be extremely calming for people with dementia and can reduce paranoia and disorientation. "That's if they like it," Werner says. "If they don't, it will just make everything worse." 4. KNOW THE MEDICATIONS "The interaction between massage and various kinds of medicines is criminally understudied," Werner says. "Does massage make medication take-up faster? Does it interfere with antiseizure or pain medications? We www.abmp.com. See what benefits await you. 23

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