Massage & Bodywork

MARCH | APRIL 2018

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I take "Martha" in her wheelchair to her room. She has just finished eating lunch. Her fingers are covered with sticky chocolate that I wipe with a warm, wet cloth; I smile and banter in play with her. Her sentences and words are scrambled. Martha is living with Alzheimer's. But something stunning happens when I massage her—she closes her eyes, becomes silent, and says, "that feels good" and "oh, so nice." I massage her scalp, neck, shoulders, and upper back, as well as her arms, hands, legs, and feet. She purrs like a kitten. When I am finished, she opens her eyes; they sparkle with renewed life. Martha smiles brightly and says, "You are a sweetheart. I was feeling so bad today, but you made me feel so good. I feel like a new woman. What a gift you have given me. Thank you." Her words are clear and coherent. Her sentences are complete. She is present and looks at me for a moment as if she is breathing me into her skin. The words come from the same person who most of the time speaks in jumbled and nonsensical words and phrases. And the bright eyes belong to someone who normally wears a dazed, confused expression. This is a rare moment in her day—and a gem of a moment for me. A MOMENT IN TIME Required by law to not overmedicate their patients, more and more skilled nursing facilities are seeking alternative therapies for their residents to help lessen the use of pain medication. There is a great need in these facilities for a caring, healing touch. Frail elders who may be bed-bound or wheelchair-bound are often touch- deprived. Can you imagine what it would be like to not be able to leave your bed? A caring massage by a therapist who loves working with frail elders can be the highlight in someone's day or week, and something they look forward to on a regular basis. FRAIL ELDERS HAVE A NEED FOR MASSAGE WHERE LANGUAGE FAILS When working with frail, older adults, touch can sometimes be more effective than words, especially when working with Alzheimer's clients. Touch communicates in a way that language may fail. Massage can bring joy to someone who is sad, a sense of connection to someone who feels isolated or lonely, and peace to those who are agitated or restless. It can revitalize and renew, bring comfort, soothe, and console. c a r e 1 0 1 2

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