A Great Holiday Gift for Caregivers - A Massage!
Last summer I received a "care" package containing a book and a CD from my friend, Brenda. When I called to thank her, she replied, "You know, Dorian, I have no idea what to do to support you as you deal with your mom's issues. I don't know what you need or what would help." This sentiment has been commonly expressed by most of my friends who haven't personally been in a caregiving situation.
So with the holiday season quickly approaching, I'd like to suggest a present that would benefit the caregiver - a gift certificate for a massage. I know that Carol Bradley Bursack addressed this topic in relationship to providing massages for the loved one who has Alzheimer's, but I also think that massage has important stress-relieving and health-promoting aspects that can and should be part of the caregiver's own personal care throughout this difficult journey. And since many caregivers won't think about the importance of a massage (much less taking time for themselves), I'd suggest that a gift certificate for a massage (or better yet, a monthly massage) would make an excellent gift.
Why are massages important for caregivers? Although I sporadically have taken opportunities to get bodywork (ranging from chair massages to full-body massages) during the past 15 years, I have found during the past four years that massages every 1-2 months have become almost a necessity to work out the stress I have been under for professional or caregiving reasons. Massage allows me to deal with the physical manifestations of stress (I normally put this tension in the muscles under my right shoulder blade and have at times experienced a very stiff neck) and to fine-tune my physical system.
So is there research about why massage is important (besides feeling good)? As described by Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals (whose website includes a link to the Public Institute of Health's website, where you can search for the specific research), some of the benefits of massage include:
- Enhance immunity by stimulating lymph flow, the body's natural defense system.
- Lessen depression and anxiety.
- Pump oxygen and nutrients into tissues and vital organs, improving circulation.
ABMP's website, massagetherapy.com, also reports, "Experts estimate that upwards of ninety percent of disease is stress related. And perhaps nothing ages us faster, internally and externally, than high stress. While eliminating anxiety and pressure altogether in this fast-paced world may be idealistic, massage can, without a doubt, help manage stress. This translates into decreased anxiety; enhanced sleep quality; greater energy, improved concentration,, increased circulation, and reduced fatigue."
The website continues, "Furthermore, clients often report a sense of perspective and clarity after receiving a massage. The emotional balance bodywork provides can often be just as vital and valuable as the more tangible physical benefits." As far as I'm concerned, all of these benefits are critically needed by caregivers who are dealing with the challenges that come from their involvement with a loved one who has Alzheimer's.
These reasons are indicative of why I decided to schedule an appointment with a massage therapist within a week after Mom's death. Since my regular massage therapist had moved out of town, I was in search for someone who would help me relieve the pent-up stress that had been building up during the last few months of Mom's life. I also needed to begin the transition to grieving by allowing my physical body to relax and by letting my emotions emerge. I knew that experiencing touch through bodywork would begin that transition.
So two days after Mom's passing, I had lunch with my friend, Sondra. During that lunch, I asked Sondra for a recommendation for a massage therapist. Sondra's face suddenly brightened, "I didn't know what to do for you, but now I do. I'm giving you a gift certificate for a massage."
I'd encourage you to take Sondra's lead and provide this valuable gift to a caregiver who is taking care of a loved one with Alzheimer's. It's a valuable gift that provides time for the caregiver to relax and focus on their own physical and emotional health.
For more information on massage therapy