Husband and Wife: Finding Peace Through Hospice Care
Posted by Diane Klick, Massage Therapist
Mary and her husband Bob are, it seems, glued at the hip, two bodies with one soul. They remind me of my parents who are also in their early nineties, failing in health after living fulfilled, long and good lives, coming from similar backgrounds, with A LOT of kids (eight), a Catholic upbringing and of course, hoping to live forever.
As her massage therapist, I visit Mary, who has congestive heart failure and dementia. Mary has been declining fast and losing her hearing, so I often place my iPhone music right down next to her so she can feel the vibrations. She always smiles. I tell her at each visit that she looks just like the gorgeous Hollywood diva Lana Turner, and she smiles again.
Bob is her caregiver and rock, and speaks for her, as she has difficulty communicating now. I often work on Mary's right foot, ankle and leg, and especially her knee, which is now causing her a lot of discomfort. It was an old childhood injury, her daughter Kim explained to me, that crushed her foot and leg. She had multiple surgeries over the years to repair it, as well as years of therapy. She had trouble walking or standing too long.
Bob always took care of Mary ̶ he helped her dress in the morning, and helped her undress in the evenings. He took her up and down using her walker to meals, and he often completed her sentences. He was worried that she was sleeping too much, and he watched her decline, which saddened and took a lot out of him. Then recently, Bob was diagnosed with Myeloma and is now in our hospice care too.
Together is really a wonderful gift ̶ for both spouses to receive hospice services at the same time. Each loves their massages. Mary, for her traumatized leg, knee and feet, as well as back and neck pain, and Bob, for his back and painful legs.
The first session I did with them together was really remarkable and worked out well. After massaging Mary, calming her down and allowing her to doze off, in came Bob. He arrived prepared and saying that now, finally, “It's my turn.” He had asked a number of times in the past for massages on his painful legs, like Mary received, but I always declined, saying, “Bob, you're not on hospice or a hospice patient, so I am unable to work on you.” He laid down on the bed and it seemed like it was a huge release. He was completely exhausted from the past years of care and dedication to his Mary. I worked on his legs, back, neck and shoulders. His temple was sensitive and bruised from the recent biopsy there. Bob fell asleep almost immediately, and as I like to suppose, was so happy to be receiving help now too.
Finally, I repositioned Bob and Mary, so that they lay next to each other on their bed, like Romeo and Juliet, hand in hand and both sound asleep, bolstered with pillows and covered with their fleece blanket. It was the most beautiful sight I have seen in a long time. The much-needed rest was bringing them peace. Bob was no longer the caregiver for Mary, and they were connected as a team, back to being a couple as they were meant to be.
Hospice massage therapists bring minds and bodies together, to reconnect patients to themselves ̶ allowing them to rest, calm down and enjoy simply letting everything go. It is so very beautiful to see patients accept the help of the fine-tuned teamwork of a hospice team. It may not be easy to get there, but I think it must be very, very rewarding.
*Note – names have been changed.