Massage Therapy… Volunteering at a Palliative Care Residence.
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Massage Therapy… Volunteering at a Palliative Care Residence.

I had been a volunteer at the Vaudreuil-Soulanges Palliative Care Residence for many years in patient care prior to becoming a massage therapist. I also experienced the relief massage could give families personally when my mother passed away at the residence and I received one, helping me to relax, especially as I was sleeping there with my mom. There was a gentleman volunteering his massage therapy at that time, and my original plan after graduating as a massage therapist was to simply support him if he needed a hand. Only a week after graduation, the residence called to say this person could no longer volunteer but asked if I could replace him once a week for 3-4 hours. Happy to be of service, and with some experience in the residence I gladly accepted.

If you want to get a good idea of what palliative care can means to someone, there is a wonderful article written by Bill Young for the Montreal Gazette, whose dear wife Sandra passed away there in 2019. There are so many stories of families whose lives have been touched by the kindness and dignified care received at the residence. It is a privilege to volunteer there, and one of the highlights of my week. This may sound strange to some as many consider the palliative care experience just containing sadness, but there are many moments of pure heartfelt human connections. No doubt, I always feel gratified when clients at my daily practice feel relaxed or relieved of pain, however, providing thirty minutes of stress relief for a grieving person feeds the soul.

Aside from providing chair massage to those patients well enough to receive it at the residence, their families and nurses, I took a special course to be certified in massage for end-of-life care. The last massage at the end of life is a massage based on the polarity approach, an energy technique developed by Dr. Stone. This massage offers specific support and accompaniment both for the person living these last moments and for their family and loved ones. It is an end-of-life ritual. Some benefits this massage offer is an adequate ritual to the person at the end of life and his family. A way to enable the person at the end of life to deal with death more serenely, because by stimulating the production of endorphins, it considerably reduces the patient’s pain. Named the last massage, this session is a way to offer a last human contact during the passage towards death.

It is a privilege to volunteer there, and one of the highlights of my week.

– Sandra Racicot

Please consider donating time or funds to your local palliative care residence. It is a place that can only be completely appreciated when it is needed, and funding is always a struggle, but the results of keeping this type of service in the community it priceless. As my instructor mentioned, we are welcomed into this world with open arms, never alone, why should someone leave this world alone? Palliative Care residences cost nothing for those who need it, as everyone should have the chance to die in dignity. Thanks to all those who help make these places possible, they are simply amazing.