WisdomSeveral years ago was the first time I saw hospice care in action. As I watched the loving and experienced hospice and home health workers, I was struck by two things. First, we all die. And second, what better way to die than in our own home with comfort and support.

Palliative care seeks to alleviate pain without actually curing it. Hospice care addresses not only physical pain, but emotional, social and spiritual pain, not just of the patient, but also of the surrounding family.

If I were dying with friends and family far away, or if they were nearby but unable to care for me, I would want hospice and/or home health care. I would be in a familiar environment. Home health care workers would keep up with housekeeping and my basic cleanliness. My friends and my animals would be with me. My care would be under the supervision of a physician, a medical director, a registered nurse, social worker and hopefully, a massage therapist.

Massage therapy for a person who is dying is healing, even if it does not reverse the dying process. A person may leave this life feeling balanced and whole as a result of healing touch, or even non-touch. Bodyworkers who work with the ill and dying, and there are many of them, know that there are times when touch may be too much and it is appropriate to use above the body healing, such as Therapeutic Touch or reiki.

When a person is extremely debilitated, simply being there can be enough. This is true for animals as well as people. Before my dogs have passed over — and they had their own version of hospice — they valued the closeness but the lightest of touch was all they needed.

One of the hospice groups near me in the Inland Valley, Hospice of the Valleys says that through personalized services and a caring community, patients and their loved ones can obtain the necessary preparation for death so that it can be not merely a period of sorrow, but one which gives them a deeper understanding of life.

They also say, “When we came into this world, we are surounded by love, care and comfort…Don’t we deserve the same when we leave?”

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