Comforting Our Seniors with Massage

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I’ve never been a fan of the word “healer” when used in massage. To me it evokes way more power than I, as a human, am capable of wielding. However, there are some, and I respect their right to feel the way they do, that call themselves healers.

Perhaps I’m wrong but I think they feel this way because when your client walks in and you “fix” the issue at hand, they certainly praise you and make you feel as if you can conquer the world. But, that’s all part of why we choose to be massage therapists. I would imagine if you ask 100 therapists why they’ve chosen this profession, they’ll say it’s because they wanted to help people. A growing population of those needing help are our seniors. Helping our seniors takes a different approach.

There are times though, even daily, where we switch from working on a client’s pain, to simply working on a client’s comfort. For instance, when our older population gets closer to their end stage of life, their goals for massage tend to change.

Because our bodies change with age, so might the reasons we seek massage. For our elderly clients, it may just be the need for comfort. Muscle mass is generally reduced significantly in the elderly population, therefore, I’m not going to have the intention of working out “trigger points” or problems in their muscle tissue.

I may instead look to make their body feel better. Perhaps they have arthritis. Massage can certainly provide some relief with joint mobilization and pain relief. Our elderly clients are also more susceptible to falls. Massage can increase circulation and help to create awareness of their bodies. This awareness helps with coordination – preventing falls and helping correct or at least address balance issues.

With the power of touch, massage can help with anxiety (at any age level) and dementia. A recent study shows the effects of massage on patients with dementia. In this study, a 20-minute massage done weekly for 6 weeks showed decreased amounts of aggression and stress levels.

There is extra care in giving massage to our seniors. If interested, call your favorite therapist and ask if they will work on older clients. Ask your therapist if they travel. Sometimes these sessions can be done at the facility or home your loved one may stay in.

Generally, these sessions are different from an average massage. They may be shorter and the client may only have certain body parts touched – for instance, hands and arms. If your loved one is able to visit the therapist’s office, make sure your therapist knows your loved one’s limitations and has suitable equipment to help.

In the words of one of my favorite (over the age of 85) clients, “If I had known I’d live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself.” Clients like this come in for comfort. Massage is a great way to help them.

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Lisa Lane
Lisa Lane is owner and lead therapist at Massage Sanctuary in Mint Hill. She specializes in pain management and is certified in neuromuscular techniques. Lisa lives in Mint Hill and is currently President of the local chapter of the Kiwanis Club. She is an active member of the community and enjoys travel, family time and trying to be the best photographer ever with her camera phone.