Geriatric, or Elder massage is tailored to meet the needs of our older population. This form of massage therapy can relieve symptoms of some conditions associated with aging; while we have many mature clients who are in excellent health, others experience some of the discomfort that often occurs in many older adults. Massage can have a wonderfully beneficial effect and improve the quality of life of many seniors.
Elder massage uses many of the strokes in Swedish massage (effleurage, petrissage, tapotment and friction) and is generally based on that style of massage. Benefits of this modality include relaxation, lowered blood pressure, increased blood circulation and lymphatic fluid, stress and anxiety relief, a heartier appetite, better digestion and improved sleep quality.
Massage therapy is complimentary to health professionals’ treatment and therapists work in cooperation with members of the medical community to reduce and manage discomfort of conditions such as arthritis, bursitis, headaches, sleep disorders, Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease and more.
Seniors who are not living in a close knit family environment; those who are alone or in a nursing or retirement home for example, may be “touch deprived”. Massage helps to counter the affects of touch deprivation and give people – and not just elders either – a sense of belonging and being cared for. Sometimes, people can become agitated because they can no longer care for themselves, when seniors receive hand massage they show fewer signs of agitation, a full body massage will increase the calming effects even more.
All massage with certain conditions is contraindicated in the affected area and, unless part of their health professional’s plan for improved health and lifestyle, should be avoided. These include broken bones, bruising, open sores, varicose veins, certain types of cancer and blood clots. Communication with doctors and a thorough health history may reveal other conditions that must be avoided.
Though the benefits of Elder massage are clear, very much appreciated, and are becoming more accepted in the medical community, it is early days yet to have become mainstream. If you are interested in Elder massage, we will be happy to provide SOAP Notes (measurable progress reports) and billing codes recommended by the prescribing medical professional to submit to your insurance company for reimbursement.
Gentle massage improves body, mind
By ALEXIA ELEJALDE-RUIZ
Posted: 01/09/2012 01:31:14 AM PST
Updated: 01/09/2012 01:31:14 AM PST
The woman — in her 80s — hadn't spoken in months. The nursing home staff figured she had lost the ability. But after six silent months of regular massage sessions, massage therapist Dawn Nelson heard a soft voice utter: "That feels good."
Nelson, author of "From the Heart Through the Hands" and creator of the program "Compassionate Touch For Those in Later Life Stages," says massage has improved quality of life for many older, not-so-mobile clients.
In addition to boosting circulation, easing stress and relieving aches and pains, all important physiologically for people who don't move around much, massage bestows a basic human need the elderly often go without: touch.
"Just like at the beginning of life, when you're not touched, you don't thrive," said Nelson, who works with older people who are isolated in their homes or living in institutionalized care.
While extensive research has shown that massaging infants benefits their development, particularly in premature babies, few studies have explored the impact of massage on the elderly.
One study, published in 1998 in the Journal of Applied Gerontology, found that elderly people who massaged infants experienced less stress, improved mood and took fewer trips to the doctor.
Researchers believe massage, and touch generally, can strengthen the immune system by stimulating pressure receptors under the skin, which in turn reduces the stress hormone cortisol, the chief culprit in killingnatural disease-fighting cells, said Tiffany Field, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine. Without touch, studies on monkeys have shown, there's a rise in aggression.
But elderly people, who could use the immune-boosting benefits of touch the most, are getting it the least.
"There's a lot of isolation involved when you're no longer working or driving," said Sharon Puszko, owner and educator at Day-Break Geriatric Massage Institute, which teaches health professionals safe massage techniques for elderly clients. "There are lots of people who are alone, whose grandchildren are grown and aren't in town to give kisses."
Some assisted living facilities arrange for massage therapists for their residents, but it's "not something that's being incorporated as much as it should be or could be," said Tara Cortes, executive director of the Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing at New York University.
Family members and friends can provide the touch that's lacking. Because aged skin gets thin and bruises easily, any massage administered to the elderly must be gentle; sometimes all it takes is barely caressing a person's skin, Cortes said.
"We do know that just the touching of a person to another person, just the warmness, creates a sense of calmness and security," Cortes said.
More than just chatting, playing games or even holding hands, giving focused, attentive touch establishes an intimate, nurturing bond that expresses caring, Nelson said. She has seen it ease the symptoms of touch deprivation, such as grouchiness, irritability, and a lack of interest in life and people. In people with dementia, she said, it helps ground them in physical reality.
"For me the miraculous part is drawing a person out of his shell," Nelson said. "Because otherwise they just curl into a little ball, and their skin dries up, their mind dries up."