Massage & Bodywork


Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 66 of 132

MY Personal JOURNEY I've never really thought of myself as practicing "geriatric" massage. Older clients have easily come into my practice since I first began as a massage student in 1984. While in school, I had the opportunity to offer massage as part of my fieldwork in a skilled nursing facility. The nursing staff was a little skeptical; some of them were concerned the residents might like it too much—and then demand or expect it. As it turned out, each person I touched was grateful in the moment for the attention I was able to give them. Esther was admitted to the facility after having suffered a stroke that paralyzed one side of her body. The physical therapy assistant recommended that I see her, thinking massage might be a good complement to her rehabilitation. I saw her a couple of times; then one day I arrived at her room and noticed her husband was with her. I stood quietly at the door, and watched as he leaned over her bed and gently applied lotion to her face. He was so loving and tender, and though Esther could not speak, the affection between them was palpable. When the kindly gray-haired gentleman noticed me, he stopped and stood up straight. Upon hearing I was there to offer massage, he said, "Oh, I hope what I am doing is OK. I don't want to hurt her." "Oh, no, you won't hurt her," I said. "What you are doing is wonderful, and I am sure she loves your touch." He seemed reassured, and was pleased when I suggested that he watch me as I massaged her feet. He wanted to learn what he could do to help her. And sure enough, when I returned the next week, I saw Esther and her husband again. His eyes sparkled as he shared with me that he had been practicing the techniques I showed him. Many seeds were planted during the weeks I visited this facility. One day I saw an elderly woman sitting in a wheelchair against the wall of a common room. She was slumped over and downcast. I sat beside her, took her hand, and gently massaged it. As I did this, she looked up at me without speaking and began to massage my hand. I only spent a few minutes with her, but when I came back down the hallway an hour later, she was still sitting upright, and looking around, clearly more engaged in the world around her than she had been an hour before. I never even knew her name, her age, or her physical condition, but she made a profound impression on me. I realized that a little caring touch and attention could make a difference in someone's day. She made a huge difference in mine! LIFE Transitions— BIRTH AND DEATH A few years before I went to massage school, I studied midwifery and attended the births of my sisters' and friends' babies as a birth attendant. I continued to attend the occasional birth after I was certified as a massage therapist. Then, in 1989, I took the volunteer training with Hospice of Boulder County (now TRU Community Care), and began to offer massage to patients in their homes. From the beginning, each person I touched had something new to teach me. For me, there were significant similarities to working with women giving birth and touching those nearing death. Birth and death are both powerful transitions in the life cycle, at once familiar, yet mysterious. I came to appreciate the power of silence, of deep listening, of responding to what was needed in the moment. I learned to adapt to the physical setting and getting the patient and myself comfortable, whether in a home, hospital, or hospice setting. I learned to let go of my personal agendas and preconceived notions about what I thought the patient needed. I learned to respect the community of people—whether family, friends, or health-care providers—who support patients along the spectrum from birth to death; from wellness to acute, chronic, or terminal illness. 64 m a s s a g e & b o d y w o r k s e p t e m b e r / o c t o b e r 2 0 1 5

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Massage & Bodywork - SEPTEMBER | OCTOBER 2015