December 01, 2016 by Jordan Nunziato
When Working With Hospice Patients, It’s About Being There, and Providing Emotional Support More Than Anything Else
Life-limiting illness means the person has been diagnosed with a progressive condition that affects quality of life and death is eminent within a more or less predictable period of time. When a person enters hospice care, he agrees that the focus of medical care will be comfort and quality of life—not curative.
In a recently published article entitled, “Massage Therapy’s Role in the Growing Hospice Movement,” author and expert, Irene Smith, writes that dying persons are vulnerable. They have lost physical defenses due to the loss of muscle mass and physical stamina. They have relinquished social defenses in the need to receive intimate care, and many will give up emotional defenses as they let go of their image in the world, their family, their bodily functions and finally the ability to breathe.
“This depth of vulnerability requires the practitioner to create a safe environment or container in which the dying person feels that his or her vulnerability is witnessed, validated and honored,” she writes. “Therapeutic presence is the quality of self, or the way of being that therapists bring to the therapeutic relationship. It is a state of being, rather than a state of doing. This state of being involves the practitioner’s ability to be personally grounded and available as a nonjudgmental witness for the dying person’s expression of his or her illness.”
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