Body Sense

AUTUMN | 2016

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Page 6 of 15—your resource for all things bodywork 7 By Cindy Williams, LMT When I arrived for our massage session, my client Mary's eyes were devoid of awareness, as if she were there only in body. Mary is an Alzheimer's patient at a special memory-care facility in Westminster, Colorado. She barely speaks, and when she does, her words cannot be understood. When I first began volunteering massage services to seniors years ago, I was nervous around clients like Mary, because communication is so important to the therapist- client relationship. In a case like Mary's, however, communication is challenging and requires an approach beyond words. It didn't take long to realize that touch was the medium. In fact, it only took 60 seconds of massage to awaken her. "Hi, Mary," I said. "I'm Cindy. Would you like your hands massaged today?" My question didn't register as she stared at the floor. I reached out slowly and held one of her hands so she could feel some comfort and caring. After a moment, I gently applied cream to her hand and began massaging. A minute later, she suddenly sat straight up in her wheelchair, eyes wide and bright, and said as clear as day, "That feels good!" Then, she shortly fell back into a daze. It was but a moment, but there was no doubt that Mary had briefly broken through the clutches of her Alzheimer's disease. Oh, the power of touch! Mary might be your mom, grandma, or great-grandma, and she is part of a growing population of seniors who can greatly benefit from massage. Naturally, the therapeutic focus changes with seniors in terms of hands-on work, because healing is no longer the goal. Rather, providing comfort and loving touch is what we strive for and what we know can make a significant difference with these elderly clients. WHAT DOES TOUCH DO FOR THE ELDERLY? For elderly clients, touch can awaken, comfort, and soothe. It improves blood circulation, which is essential for inactive individuals. It can improve balance and coordination with increased body awareness, helping your loved one's ability to avoid falls and injuries, and it can improve joint mobility and ease the pain of arthritis; whenever pain is reduced, Studies have shown that even a brief massage can produce a relaxation response in older adults living with dementia.

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