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Massage as Respite for Caregivers Improves Physical Health and Provides Emotional Support

17 Aug 2011

Caring for a seriously ill family member can be physically and emotionally challenging, and exhausting. Their bodies become overextended from extra work, lack of sleep, fear, grief, and even anger.


Many caregivers in addition to meeting the needs for companionship and friendship are performing physical tasks for the patient. They include bathing them, transferring them from the bed to a wheelchair or commode. Plus, they are left to handle all of the household tasks they used to do together on their own.

And a good night’s sleep is probably rare, because they either have to assist or physically help them go to the bathroom during the night. Their bodies become overwhelmed with all of the extra work. Spouses may experience a higher incidence of hypertension, respiratory distress, and immuno suppression, all of which create a more stressful situation for the patient.

Two researchers found that massage had a positive effect on the care-giving spouses of cancer patients. L. M. Goodfellow, published in Nursing Research, studied chair massage and it’s effects on caregivers. He reviewed the effect of a single, 20-minute back massage on natural killer cell activity (NKCA), heart rate, blood pressure, mood, and perceived stress on spouses with cancer. His findings were that mood and perceived stress improved.

S. J.Rexilius, published in Oncology Nursing Forum, studied the effect of massage and healing touch combined. He found that those who received massages showed a significant decline in anxiety, depression and fatigue.

Currently, there are some pilot studies being conducted in hospital and hospice settings where massages are being administered to caregivers. A massage allows a caregiver to relax, rest, and be physically cared for, and  provides an opportunity to tell their story to a compassionate listener.

Centerpoint classes all focus on the emotional side of the person receiving a massage. Training on sensitive communications is part of the program and courses foundation. Take a class today, call us on 612-617-7090.

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