One of my jobs at the cancer centers that I work at is to teach caregivers how to safely massage their family member in treatment. When a caregiver shows interest, it offers the patient in treatment more opportunities for safe touch. When I see a caregiver watching me, I encourage them to pay attention and then I give them a back massage lesson, by giving them a massage. This shows them the level of pressure that is safe. More instructions are given about staying away from ports and drains, fresh surgical sites and not overtaxing someone who is already fatigued with a home massage. A 10-15 gentle back massage is pure bliss. Family members are stepping up to the plate everyday to help; they just need safety tips, so the instructions are extremely appreciated.
I have taught caregivers at conferences and they are always very appreciated about the much needed information; it is cost effective, allows the patient to be massaged more often as well as allow the caregiver to feel that they are doing something useful. This is not a full body massage, but a caregiver gently massaging their family member’s back tot offers comfort and care.
I will never forget the patient that taught her husband how to massage her, by asking me for instructions to give him for her home massage. Then she returned the favor and gave him a simple massage as well. She felt so good to be able to do something for all that he had done for her. She is my inspiration when I teach caregivers how to offer comfort based massage at home.
Here are some simple tips for a simple back massage:
1. Remember the level of pressure when you use to lotion your child, which is all the pressure that is necessary for relaxation. It is a very gentle pressure and when done to the back is extremely comforting.
2. Let music set the rhythm of slow, smooth and gentle.
3. Allow your hands to be in tune with the music and watch as the breath of the patient follows the rhythm of your hands and music. Remind them to breathe, being mindful that might even be difficult with certain medical conditions.
4. If you are doing a massage at the table, place the pillow on the table or even one on their lap. Allow pillows to offer support as your family member rests comfortably at the table with their hands hugging the pillow. Create a face cradle with a hand towel that is rolled into a tube and shaped into a “u.”
5. While giving the massage, make sure you are comfortable, sit if necessary, and don’t strain your back
6. If the massage will be on the bed, the patient can be in a side-lying position. Use a pillow to support the bent top knee while holding another pillow to their chest. Have them positioned close to the edge of the bed. Now find a comfortable stool to sit on and you are in a good position to massage their neck and back.