Massage therapist Theresa May recalls times in which she has seen patients at Hospice of the Twin Cities in Minneapolis, Minnesota, benefit from massage both physically and

emotionally. Massage has healed patients’ feelings of isolation from estranged families, she says, and it has helped restless and agitated patients finally experience deep sleep.

“From the pain of being sedentary and other origins, to insomnia, shortness of breath, nausea, edema and anxiety, massage is the answer for many patients,” May says.

May recruits, trains and supervises massage volunteers and provides direct care to hospice patients with massage and energy therapies.

She recalls one patient with end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and an anxiety disorder. The patient was on an every-other-week massage schedule, and experienced a two-week cycle with a good pain control week and a week with greater medication use and more anxiety. The patient’s massage schedule was increased to weekly visits for comfort and to lessen medication needs. May describes feeling gratified as “other members of the patient’s hospice team noticed that massage made the difference.”

Extensive medical care can cause a patient to view his body as a problem, according to May, and helping patients feel otherwise is a gift. She describes seeing massage have “an even deeper impact on patients” by providing the patient a rare feeling that the body is a friend instead of an enemy.

May views her work as her calling. At age 14, she helped care for her grandmother during her last weeks of life, which she says felt very natural. She admits that her work can be challenging, as she continuously reflects on patients’ wellbeing and needs.

Recently, May experienced hospice care from the other side of the relationship. She was a long-distance caregiver for a friend with a rare uterine cancer for the past year. This friend was physically appropriate for hospice care, but wasn’t mentally or emotionally ready. It wasn’t until the end of this friend’s life that she became open to receiving hospice care. This experience has helped May better understand patients’ protective families and the importance of being mindful about overstepping boundaries when gently offering services.

Reflecting on her work with hospice, May says, “I have a greater appreciation and gratitude for the small beauties that happen in our lives daily.”

Maegan Galas is MASSAGE Magazine’s marketing and editorial assistant.

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