Sharp HospiceCare Services Include "Caring for the Caregiver"

Sharp HospiceCare Services Include "Caring for the Caregiver"

By: Lisa Goodman, HTCP/I, Sharp HospiceCare Integrative Therapies Coordinator
Sharp HospiceCare in San Diego, CA, expanded its services to include Caring for the Caregiver, and it is the focus of the Integrative Therapies (IT) volunteer program. Our journey began in 2005, when we implemented integrative therapies (such as Healing Touch, Reiki, comfort massage for hands and feet, imagery and aromatherapy) into the plan of care to better serve our patients at end of life.

In 2014, I approached leadership with a need to better assist our patient's primary caregiver. As most of us probably know, caregiving can be strenuous, especially as it relates to losing a loved one. Our IT volunteer program was implemented in April 2014, to assist the primary caregiver of a hospice patient by providing a one-hour relaxation session each week for the duration of service.

Being able to provide a level of comfort to a situation that is often new, open and raw with emotion can help soften the space and allow for healing to occur on all levels. Our staff and volunteers are specially trained to provide a level of compassion that stems from the foundational teachings taught throughout the Healing Touch Program coursework. As a Healing Touch practitioner and instructor, it is my duty to express the importance of self-care, and for many of our hospice family caregivers, this is no easy task. Our service has been well received by all including the staff, patients, families and volunteers.

Over the past two years our program has grown to include 18 volunteers, who are either assigned to a caregiver or they provide Healing Touch, Reiki, aromatherapy or hand massage to patients at our Hospice Homes.

"During a recent caregiving session, I included Reiki and the caregiver saw great explosions of bright colors - colors she hasn't experienced in a long time," says Linda Husar, integrative therapies volunteer. "She actually cried. She said that she's been so numb she has been unable to cry. Feeling cut off from her emotions, she told me that she would not have been able to be there for her patients without this work."
"Reluctantly, one caregiver stopped her Healing Touch treatments. Fast forward a few weeks...I telephoned the caregiver to check in and see how things were going. She said that she regretted giving up her treatments. Her pain had returned with the increased stress and she wasn't doing well. She asked if I could resume her treatments. After our first encore visit, the caregiver was in tears...happy tears! Her pain was gone and she reported feeling much more capable of responding with love and compassion in her caregiving role. Her internal reserves were once again filled! I think it is rather easy to see how the patient benefits when the caregiver's needs are recognized, acknowledged and supported. I am so grateful to be able to help facilitate this compassion." Yvonne Sena
For information on becoming a Sharp HospiceCare Healing Touch volunteer, please contact Denise Kelly, volunteer coordinator at 619-667-1900.

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