By Sharon, DayBreak Geriatric Massage Institute
Geriatric Massage has different effects on people, depending on the intent with which it’s performed and received. People who are aging, ill or approaching death tolerate and respond to touch differently than healthy clients. Therefore, geriatric massage sessions require skills and knowledge that exceed basic massage therapy curricula. In addition to anatomy and physiology, you should understand pharmacology, end-stage disease pathology, death related issues and the hospice system. As work with senior and geriatric population evolves, consider attaining advanced geriatric massage training through continuing education.
Touch is important during end of life care, many massage and bodywork techniques may be too stimulating or painful. Instead of using vigorous approaches that address muscle work and blood circulation, emphasize gentle techniques that ameliorate pain. Some massage techniques can be adapted.
When determining the intensity and length of the geriatric massage, don’t adhere to the goals for healthy clients. Senior or Geriatric massage sessions with ill or hospice patients should be shorter and most likely 15 to 30 minutes is adequate.
Skin care is vital for bedridden patients. If possible, massage patients daily with lotion. This increases circulation, moisturizes skin and decreases the chance of pressure sores.
As patients lose weight, maintaining skin integrity becomes important. Pressure occurs where bones are close to the surface. Lightly massage the skin covering joints to maintain suppleness and avoid skin breakdown in these high risk areas.
If a geriatric massage patient has a stage 1 pressure sore–where skin is red, but intact—don’t directly massage the area. You can cause further damage, especially in senior patients with poor skin elasticity. When massaging around a pressure sore, leave a 1-inch buffer of healthy skin.
Once you establish the best approach, train family members to participate in the sessions. The techniques aren’t difficult to master and can be executed by nonprofessionals with proper monitoring. By engaging loved ones, you can enhance the social aspect of visits.