Massage & Bodywork

MARCH | APRIL 2018

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digital extra As we sent this issue to press—with its intriguing package of articles on hospice massage, working with the frail and elderly, and understanding our own feelings about life and death—I was reminded of my first exposure to this work when I met Dietrich Miesler in 1998. As founder of the Day-Break Geriatric Massage Project in 1982, Dietrich taught students the world over about the importance of touch for the elderly, and we were fortunate to have him share his wisdom in his Geriatric Massage column for Massage & Bodywork from 1998 to 2002. From our first editor/author phone call, I knew how passionate Dietrich was for this work. He loved to recount the successful sessions he had working with diabetic patients and how massage so greatly benefited their compromised extremities. His mantra about massage and circulation were part of every conversation. And, just as Irene Smith worries today about the integrity of hospice massage due to inadequate training, Dietrich was concerned about the field of geriatric massage for similar reasons. When students or colleagues would describe their protocol for working with the elderly as simply "using less force," he knew his work was cut out for him. He was so adamant about professional massage therapists understanding that working with the elderly was much more than just a simple adaptation of pressure that he wrote four of his first year's six columns on the subject: "One Approach Does Not Fit All, Parts 1–4." Of hospice massage, he wrote: "Massage is one of those curious human interactions that differs in its effect, depending on the intent with which it is performed and received. The reason why touch is so powerful is based on the recognition that tactile experiences are the first sensations Remembering a Mentor Dietrich Miesler 1925–2006 By Karrie Osborn While much of Dietrich Miesler's writings for Massage & Bodywork can only be found in print, take a minute to explore some of his thoughts about working with the elderly at www.massagetherapy.com. that greet us at birth. They are also the last perceptions to leave us when we die." I know Dietrich left unfinished work when a fall and subsequent surgery forced him into a nursing care facility in 2001. His plans to write and research were put on hold, and he turned over Day-Break to his longtime colleague Sharon Puszko, who continues to grow the program today (www.daybreak-massage.com). My once- frequent, lengthy conversations with Dietrich about Day-Break's work waned as his access to phone and computer were limited in the nursing home. I missed the candor with which he addressed this segment of the profession, as well as all the personal stories about his days as a jazz musician, his family, and his ornery exploits in his Dodge Dart. The few special conversations we had in the years before he passed in 2006 only served to remind me how much I missed this man and his wisdom … and what a loss it was to the profession that he went too soon. Karrie Osborn is senior editor for Massage & Bodywork.

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