Palliative care

Up until about a year ago I volunteered regularly at Manly Waters Private Hospital, mainly working with palliative care patients but also with some of the post surgical and rehabilitation patients.  There I met some of the most beautiful people I’ve ever come across, both staff and patients. 

ImageStaff at Manly Waters Private Hospital, http://mhsmanly.com.au/

I was constantly amazed at how upbeat the staff were … ALWAYS!  They were cheeky and loud but at the same time caring and compassionate.  One of my most treasured memories (and believe me, there are many) was the day I went in to work with an elderly palliative lady, doing some nice, gentle massage to her lower body.  She wasn’t able to speak any more but was fairly alert still.  Her husband was visiting, happily settled in his chair reading the paper and doing his crossword.  In came one of the nurses who piped up “Mrs X, look at your hair, how about we give it a brush.  And look, here’s some perfume in your drawer, shall we put some of that on?”  Her face lit up.  What I love about that simple story is how just a random act of kindness can make such a difference.  This was no isolated story at Manly Waters.

I was honoured to be able to spend time with patients and their families at such an emotional time and I was able to get to know a few of the them over their last weeks.  The simple act of gentle touch was a small contribution I was able to make to help them with their pain or fear.  I was never told when a patient had passed on but I always knew, simply by the fact that I didn’t see them again.  It could be quite emotional for me when I realised someone was gone, but that made me aware of how amazing the staff at the hospital were – they built relationships and knew that they would lose patients and yet they were able to be cheerful, upbeat and positive. 

Massage is such a useful tool.  Even if a person is in pain throughout their body their feet and hands can be massaged, it’s a great thing to do to bring comfort to someone in hospital.  Anyone can do it, touch doesn’t need to be left to a professional to be beneficial.  So next time you visit someone in hospital, take along a little oil or use one of their creams and do a little massage for them, they will love it.