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Massage Today
June, 2008, Vol. 08, Issue 06

Care That Goes Hand in Hand

A Symposium on Elder and Hospice Massage

By Ann Catlin, LMT, NCTMB, OTR

Plans are already well under way for the Hand in Hand Symposium 2009, sponsored by the Center for Compassionate Touch and the Cortiva Institute. The symposium is designed to be a forum for the creative exchange of ideas regarding program development, education, vision and shared resources between massage therapists and eldercare and hospice professionals and organizations.

"Bringing together touch and this special population is a great joy and wonderful experience. This type of training is a valuable component to the health care professional's continuing education and plays an important role in Cortiva Institute's CE programs," said Patrick Pheasant, Cortiva's corporate director of continuing education. "Hand in Hand 2009: A Symposium Celebrating Massage Therapy in Eldercare and Hospice is an exciting professional development project ... and we support such events wholeheartedly."

Massage therapists who attend Hand in Hand 2009 will learn from leaders in the profession, as well as from experts in the fields of eldercare and hospice. Organizers hope the symposium will provide an excellent opportunity to develop relationships with potential employers. Eldercare and retirement communities are discovering the value of massage therapy for the individuals for whom they care. However, their staff and organizations might need guidance in program development, identifying incentives for offering massage services, or assistance locating a massage therapist with the right set of skills. More and more retirement communities are looking into offering massage therapy for their residents.

"The symposium will provide an opportunity for professionals to learn about the application and importance of massage therapy being integrated into quality health care," said Don Spaulding, director of health services at the Mayflower Retirement Community in Winter Park, Fla. "Providing massage to elders and hospice patients as a skilled intervention is providing an additional level of comfort and allows one-on-one focused attention with the resident."

In the past decade, massage therapy has gained recognition and acceptance in mainstream health care settings such as hospitals, clinics, eldercare facilities and hospices. The profession is expanding to answer the growing demand for therapists with training to serve diverse special populations. Elders in long-term care and individuals in hospice care represent a growing clientele and specialized area of practice, as evidenced by the following:

  • Greater numbers of massage schools are developing special-population curriculums introducing students to massage for elders.
  • There are increasing requests from students and experienced therapists alike for training to meet the needs of those in eldercare and hospice settings.
  • Hospices and long-term care facilities nationwide are enlisting the services of massage therapists.

It is increasingly apparent that massage therapists no longer have to assume that hospice and eldercare communities expect volunteer services. Throughout the country, massage therapists are building successful practices in these settings. As public awareness about the benefits of massage grows, hospices and long-term care facilities are recognizing the value of adding massage therapy to the programs and services they offer. Examples include:

  • NorthCare Hospice in Kansas City, Mo., has added complementary therapies and employs two full-time licensed massage therapists. Its Web site states, "NorthCare's massage therapists enhance quality of life through touch."
  • Palm Gardens of Gainesville, Fla. (a skilled-nursing facility) employs a nurse massage therapist and has dedicated a room in the facility as a massage room where the massage therapist serves both elders and staff.
  • Rainbow Hospice in Chicago includes massage therapy in its program. According to the hospice's newsletter, Within the Rainbow, "We are delighted to add massage therapy as the next step in expanding the integrative therapies available to those we serve."
  • Meth-Wick Retirement Community in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, has contracted with a massage therapist to conduct a small-scale study to substantiate the efficacy of massage in reducing anxiety levels of elders in skilled nursing care.
  • Haven Hospice of Florida recently posted an opening on its Web site for a massage therapist.

The Hand in Hand Symposium 2009 will be held from May 1-3, 2009, at the Caribe Royale in Orlando, Fla. For registration and additional information, visit

Click here for previous articles by Ann Catlin, LMT, NCTMB, OTR.


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