Geriatric massage, with its focus on the elderly, addresses the psychological and physiological aspects of aging and its associated diseases. Bodywork, often limited to a shorter time span, is often performed in residential care facilities. Click here to find a geriatric massage practitioner.
"The aging of the U.S. population is one of the major public health challenges of the 21st century. With more than 70 million baby boomers in the United States poised to join the ranks of those aged 65 or older, preventing disease and injury is one of the few tools available to reduce the expected growth of healthcare and long-term care costs.”
Julie Louise Gerberding, MD, Director, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Chances are you either have a family member diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or you know someone who does. The devastating impact of Alzheimer’s and related dementias on our American society is steadily growing. The Alzheimer’s Association puts the number of people currently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s (the most prevalent dementia) at 4.5 million, double that in 1980. As life expectancy increases, so does the rate of those afflicted — 1 of 10 by age 65, 1 of 2 by age 85.
Some of the most rewarding work for massage therapists and bodyworkers is interacting with people afflicted with dementia. What makes it so rewarding is how beneficial it is to the clients.
"The tiger is ready to go. That was grrrreat!” These are words spoken by an 82-year-old man who had recently been released after a month in the hospital. He had just received his first session of Comfort Touch. Peg, the massage therapist who relayed his story to me, had recently attended my workshop “Comfort Touch for the Elderly and the Ill.”
Another therapist, Kathleen, shared her experience of using Comfort Touch in a hospital: “It is incredible. You look in the eyes of the patient, knowing you made a difference.”
Through my observations and personal experience, residents in multi-level care facilities require caring, skilled massage. They often have a dizzying array of diagnoses that the best rehab centers in the country have difficulty caring for. Day after day staff struggle just to meet the basic needs of residents, with little or no time to provide the gentle touch they so deserve.
When working with stroke victims it is important to realize that in the case of a spastic stroke, the muscles are not out of commission, but they are out of control. The balance between flexors and extenders is gone; so is the wonderful phenomenon of muscle groups that, in a fantastic choreography, can bring the most incredible variation of strength and direction of movement to bear on the most mundane moves.
The incidence of Parkinson’s disease in the United States is estimated at 1 million, with an additional 50,000 patients being diagnosed every year. While it is generally considered a disease of those between 50 and 79 years of age, incidence below the age of 40 is rapidly increasing and epidemiologists suspect environmental influences are playing a part in this phenomenon.1 Noting that Parkinson’s is still essentially a disease of aging, the likelihood of caucasians coming down with the disease is 2.5 percent.
A Crabbèd Old Woman
The body it crumbles. Grace and vigor depart.
There now is a stone where I once had a heart.
But inside this old carcass, a young girl still dwells,
And now and again my battered heart swells.
I remember the pain, and I remember the joys,
And I’m living and loving all over again.
And I think of the years, all too few, gone too fast,
And accept the stark fact that nothing will last.
So open your eyes, nurse, open and see
Not a crabbèd old woman,
Look closer: See me.
One day after attending a geriatric workshop seminar, I visited a neighborhood boutique. While browsing, I overheard a customer tell the clerk she had fibromyalgia. Trying to explain the disorder to the clerk, the woman sighed and said doctors don’t know exactly what fibromyalgia is. Those who have it experience a general muscular aching, pain and stiffness, she explained. “I also have certain points that are so tender at times I can’t even get dressed,” said the woman. “With me, it began one day when I got the flu.