Doing Hospice Massage – Business or Volunteer Service?

by Pietro John Caporusso, LMT

Actually, what I wrote first was “Business or Pleasure? “ Isn’t that how the phrase usually goes?  But I realized that sounded pretty dark for an activity that is both sobering and personally satisfying for me.  Unlike most CE workshops that teach massage techniques or business practices, the focus of my 3 hour CE workshop in August will be on volunteering.

Yes, we’ll talk some about technique and how the growing field of what is now called “eldercare” is welcoming more alternative care modalities, along with the possibility for growing your business.  However, this workshop suggests being of service to the community, specifically through hospice massage.

Volunteering and being of service has always been part of what I do, and I think everyone who commits to some kind of service to others, without financial strings attached, derives a great deal of intangible rewards in return.

As I was collecting my thoughts for this blog, I reviewed what others had written and was struck by Joy Sablatura’s article, Insight into the Purpose of Giving Massage.  (Coincidentally, she speaks of spending time with the Dalai Lama, and I leave this week (7/14) for a conference in Illinois which includes 2 days with the Dalai Lama.)  I think she captures well the service aspect of massage and what we can contribute to the greater good, and I think too, that most of us in the profession were drawn to the “people” aspects of the profession along with the realities of making a living financially. Thanks for sharing, Joy!

Techniques-wise, eldercare massage requires some adjustment to how you approach an aging body, how you do assessments, being a little more aware of contraindications, drug interactions, and a sharpening of your communication skills.

Business-wise, eldercare might be considered a “niche population,” which brings with it a network of potential contacts, friends and family, if you make the fit into their particular needs and levels of function.

Hospice-wise, a lot of what you learned in school is set aside and you can find yourself working by the seat of your pants, (the palms of of your hands?) and making adjustments to what might be your normal sequence.

Consider that a person who has medically qualified for hospice has received a death sentence of one year or less.  When I tell people what I do, I sometimes fall into my dark humor and say that “all my clients die.” Death and dying still makes a lot of people uncomfortable, and many don’t know how to respond to me.   Massage therapists would rather think in terms of better health, well-being, and relieving pain .  Those terms become relative when you are working with someone you may not see again.

These are some of the issues that will confront you and that you need to resolve for your own health and well-being.  I would really like you to attend the workshop, and hospice needs more massage therapists, but if I’ve discouraged you, then you’ve learned something already.

On a brighter note, if you don’t think that volunteering for hospice massage would work for you, let me encourage you to find some way of volunteering and being of service to others that is more suited to your interests.  And that may not even be doing massage.  Don’t let yourself get locked in to a business-only frame of mind.  Explore—dare I say it?– something that will bring some pleasure in the doing.