the original kStyle blog.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

In the Alzheimer's Ward

I've at last begun volunteer shiatsu work in hospice. I currently visit patients at two local facilities. For background, let me explain that there are not hospice facilities where people go to die. When a doctor estimates that someone has less than 6 months to live, s/he can be placed on hospice at the discretion of the primary caregiver. This means that no heroic gestures will be made to save the person's life. Often, the patient is given pain medication. A hospice organization may be hired to send their nurses, volunteers, chaplains, and so forth to give care at the patient's bedside. This bedside might be located in a swanky assisted living facility, a nursing home, or the patient's home.

On Friday I visited a well-appointed assisted living facility to see a 96 y.o. woman, who was sharp as a tack despite some short-term memory loss. She carried on a great conversation and lit up the room with her smile. After visiting for a few minutes, I explained what shiatsu was and asked if she'd like to try it. "No," she replied, "Not today." Her aide explained that this patient sometimes needs encouragement to try new things. We encouraged her. We demonstrated shiatsu on the aide, who oohed and aahed over how good it felt. Then we asked again, "Would you like to try shiatsu?"

"No, not today."

Today I visited a different patient in an Alzheimer's unit at a local hospital. She was very receptive to shiatsu and became very relaxed with treatment. This was fantastic, but the best part was the other patients in the unit. Her roommate, beaming a loopy grin, presented me with the cap from her lotion bottle as a gift. As I filled in the volunteer log in the hall, another patient stood beside me singing something like deranged Broadway tunes without lyrics, putting on a grand show. From time to time, she'd tap my elbow and exclaim, "Look!," pointing at nothing.

I freaking love this work.


Blogger Narya said...

Do Alzheimer's patients have a particular/recognizable pattern of blockages?

And you're a better person than I; I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have the whatever-it-takes to do that volunteer work.

And how was your retreat?

6:37 AM  
Blogger kStyle said...

Not that I know of yet! But I'm really working with "dying people" more than Alzheimer's patients, if that makes sense. Probably will be lots of work on the Metal element (lung and large intestine meridians), because Metal holds grief, large intestine's function is to "let go", and breathing gets disrupted during active dying. But, we'll see what actually happens.

In no way a better person--just bothered by different things. I very strongly disliked working with addicts in the homeless shelter, but you've done lots of work with that population. I won't work with addicts anymore, if I can help it.

Retreat, thank you for asking, was profound and happy and very difficult to explain to others because of its profundity. I’ll share vignettes at some point.

7:19 AM  

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