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Hospice Therapeutic Massage in the Era of COVID-19

Posted on July 28th, 2020

Massage Therapy is part of the Integrative Therapies Program at Hospice of the Northwest. Different methods of massage are used to treat symptoms like muscle pain and tension, anxiety, nausea, poor circulation, edema, loneliness, neuropathy swelling, among many others. Therapeutic massage is used in hospice care to improve sleep and restfulness as well as greatly increase patient comfort.

PPE, patient safety, and following the most up to date guidelines provided by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), the Washington State Department of Health (DOH), the University of Washington, and Skagit Regional Health is a top priority for all staff at Hospice of the Northwest. In compliance with these guidelines, the HNW care team took measures to ensure that massage therapy could be delivered safely to hospice patients.

Tiana Joy, licensed massage therapist at Hospice of the Northwest, shares her experience with COVID-19 patient care policies, “I started wearing masks and gloves early on when COVID concerns first surfaced. Maybe a few weeks before they became mandatory. That gave me time to get used to them.”

Part of the HNW patient safety protocols is that caregiver clothing is required to be changed between each patient. This is not an easy task, as Tiana explains, but is essential for safety, “Clothes were a bit trickier. In the first few weeks of COVID I got really good at layering and could organize outfits that would accommodate 4-5 patients. I eventually switched to scrubs and gowns so that I wasn’t depleting my own wardrobe completely. Luckily I had several pairs of rubber boots and shoes that I bleached throughout the day when I would change clothes or strip layers in between patients. We have learned to adapt to the many daily showers that are necessary to manage amplified demand for optimal hygiene.”

Social distancing and strict regulations in assisted living facilities has increased the level of isolation, despair and distress experienced by those nearing the end of life in our community. The hospice care team, and massage therapy in particular, helps mitigate these problems while also providing much needed physical touch and interaction. 

“Many of the patients we serve are at home and have limited friends, family, and visitors to begin with. When I come into their home for a massage visit I encourage positive conversations. We share stories and jokes or maybe recipes and songs. It could be that we have a quiet relaxing session or we could end up laughing our way through it which is its own delightful sort of therapy in itself. Either way, it helps to promote a deeper sense of safety and calm and I hope that it is reassuring them that everything is going to be alright and that they are not alone.”

Caring for the emotional and spiritual wellbeing of hospice patients in addition to the physical is foundational to the holistic and compassionate approach of Hospice of the Northwest. The care team is dedicated to meeting the needs of each patient with support, comfort, companionship, and presence. 

Despite COVID-19, compassionate and dignified end-of-life care must continue. New considerations for keeping patients and staff safe have increased costs and community support is now more vital than ever.To learn more about 100% donor-funded Integrative Therapies at Hospice of the Northwest, please visit our website at:

About Hospice of the Northwest

We are a skilled, caring, and compassionate team of doctors, nurses, social workers, spiritual counselors, aides, volunteers and generous community donors. Together we provide patient-centered care for people facing serious illness. We’ve been serving the residents of Island, San Juan, Skagit and Snohomish Counties since 1989 and want to know how we can support you or your loved one.

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