I am offering this information as sooner or later we all will need it.
Please feel welcome to contact me about this.
As we are busy trying to lead productive happy lives in these challenging times, we typically do not have the time or the desire to dwell on how it will all eventually end. But in fact we all age and eventually transition from this lifetime. During this process we experience various degrees of reduction in physical and mental capability, which for some will include dementia. Perhaps you have already experienced a relative, loved one, friend or acquaintance as they have been or are in this stage of life. Doing so alone and without support from others with experience in this realm can be very difficult. Today Hospice workers and volunteers play an incredible role in this stage of our lives.The history of Hospice can be found in books and online, for example at the Wikipedia Hospice link. It is fair to say that, as with most of life, end of life, while inevitable, is vastly improved in the recent few decades. Modern hospice is based on palliative care (relief not cure) and treatment of “total pain”, encompassing the physical, emotional, spiritual and social concerns that arise.
Dealing with Change
While the old saying "the only things that are unavoidable are death and taxes" if often heard, the more general truth was put forward thousands of years ago in Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching, or book of the way, the classic manual on the Art of Living. His basic thought was that the only constant in life is change and if we resist those changes we will suffer. And so it is at end of life. The person transitioning, is on a path of loss, ultimately of every thing. For the living, there is loss as well. The living lose all that the person who is transitioning has been to them. Every member of the Hospice team contributes to the support of all involved. As this drama unfolds, sometimes very slowly and other times rapidly, all involved are challenged to let go of past roles and discover new potential, purpose, and connection. As a massage and Reiki volunteer, the core of what I do is to be present with the person transitioning, with compassionate energy and touch as appropriate and acceptable, in a way that allows them to be just who they are in that moment. I allow them to be free of obligations and responsibilities associated with the many roles and relationships they had during their lifetime. At the same time, whenever possible, I am very gratified when I can help family, friends, and care givers to let go of old roles and ways of relating, and become present with the person transitioning. After all, in the end, all we can have during this time is connection. While I received specialized training to become a hospice volunteer, I found the following book to be a wonderful concise primer, which I recommend for everyone: Comforting Touch in Dementia and End of Live Care: Take my Hand by Barbara Goldschmidt and Niamh van Meines, 2012.
About Massage for aging and end of life individuals
When many hear of massage for the aging or end of life individuals, they think that they would be too frail for massage. In practice, I use only touch that is suitable for the individual's conditions. This can be limited to just a laying on of my hands, gently holding hands, or gently cradling. In fact massage is really an umbrella term that can include playing relaxing music, listening and responding with compassion, aromatherapy, and energy work such as Reiki and Jin Shin Acutouch.
My Personal Story
I was born and lived in a small town in south central Pennsylvania until I left for college. Now as then I only returned for occasional visits, mostly for holidays. My story is similar to many others these days. My path to pursue my dreams, which was a combination of effort to find purpose and leave behind my past, has lead to separation from my family of origin. While modern travel and communication has allowed a degree of connection, it has been a far cry from living close by. I did have the privilege of taking my Father on a tour in Europe in 2005, retracing his service in WWII on the 60th anniversary of the end of the war. However, in February of 2014, when my Father transitioned at 95 years old, in the middle of snow storms, I was not by his side. Hospice volunteers from the church were a great support to my family in Pennsylvania, especially my younger brother who has lived next to my parents and was there with our Father through all this. So it was that during the completion of my Holistic Health Practitioner (HHP) program, which includes the requirement to perform volunteer massage for a segment of the population that does not have ready access to massage, that I was called to volunteer in Hospice. This program opened the door for me, and while my class requirements have been satisfied and I am now an HPP, I continued to volunteer for over 2 years. I chose to join Elizabeth Hospice, a non-profit organization founded in 1978, which cares for nearly 500 adults and children each day in Southern California. While I am not able to be back in Pennsylvania with my family members, I was able to be present with individuals who were transitioning from this life and their family members as they went through an experience that is an integral part of and no more or less challenging and wondrous than all the other stages of life that we humans experience.
An Eloquent Story Spoken From the Heart
Dr. Maya Angelou's "Love Liberates" is one women's account of a life full of challenges and Love, Love which free's and does not own... right up to when she gives her Mother freedom to transition. I invite you to click on the link and take it in.