Caring for the Caregiver

Stress, sadness, anxiety, pain, depression, loneliness, anger…  these are just some of the emotions caregivers have expressed to us when talking about dealing with their loved ones’ illness.  They go on to explain they have little reprieve from these feelings, as the illness is often not “temporary”.  They speak of exhaustion and increased health problems of their own.   Additionally, they appear to take very little time for themselves.

This is where caregiver massage can become an important aspect of the caregiving process.  Not only do the well-known benefits of massage apply (relaxation, pain-relief, improved sleep patterns, decreased anxiety), the massage session can also provide a quiet place free of expectations, explanations and responsibilities.  However, it seems that in order for this to happen, we therapists needs to be aware of the intention we bring to the session.  It most likely is not a time to ask the individual specific questions about their loved one, but rather to listen to whatever they choose to share.  It is not a time to bring hope by saying the “right things” but instead to validate with our touch and our presence and our carefully chosen words.

It is our hope that  by alleviating some of the caregiver’s stress via massage, they will be able to tackle their tasks a bit more easily  and effectively.  But just as important, is the hope that this will serve as a  good reminder of the necessity of taking care of their own needs and thus reconnecting to their own sense of self.

Massage therapists have the possibility to become a respite which is so necessary—a quiet, compassionate and present individual bringing comfort to the caregiver’s journey.

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