Why do so many of our colleagues shy away from palliative care? A few years ago, when I stood up at our Southwest Symposium to give a thumbnail sketch prior to my afternoon workshop in palliative care, two thirds of the delegates rose and left the conference hall. I kid you not. “Wow,” I said, “This can’t be because I’m wearing the wrong deodorant, surely!”
The dozen or so who attended my workshop later were all accomplished Licensed Acupuncturists who were also Asian Bodywork Therapists or Massage Therapists. Therein lies the key. Those of us with bodywork skills aren’t afraid to work with clients who are terminally ill. In fact, it’s a gift – an honor. Especially if you have the chance to work on a long-term client through their final few months or weeks. The experience can be profound, which is why it’s great that AOMA offers offsite clinics in hospice care!
On a practical level, pain control is crucial. This can often mean stepping outside standard protocols and working patiently with the client to see which combination of acupoints eases both physical and emotional pain. It’s helpful to focus on the client’s hands and feet, especially in a hospital or hospice setting. Having a skilled, compassionate, and mindful touch with a minimum of points is essential. It may not always be wise or possible to use needles. I often teach family members of clients some simple acupressure work for those long hours when they sit beside a terminally ill loved one, feeling helpless or staring at some noisy game on TV. Sometimes a practitioner provides a calming center or focus in the room (at home or in hospital) when family members of the client fall apart – or – start heated arguments. I’ve seen all shades of behavior. Qi work is paramount. Not only to keep the practitioner centered and focused, but to maintain a calming atmosphere around the client. It’s equally important to remind family members that the sense of hearing is the last to go, and to never assume that a loved one can’t hear even while appearing unresponsive or in a coma.
For more info – see Pam’s column “Compassionate ABT for Palliative Care” in Acupuncture Today of February 2014 (15,2).
Pam will teach a Palliative Care workshop on April 18, 2015 at AOMA for PDA points and LMT CEUs. Find out more at https://aoma.edu/calendar/event/2673/, and register at http://store.aoma.edu/product/cc-palliative-15.html.
Pam Ferguson Dipl. ABT (NCCAOM), AOBTA® – CI, LMT (TX) teaches advanced classes in Asian Bodywork Therapy, mainly in Europe. She is AOMA’s Asian Bodywork Therapy Dean Emerita.