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Peaceful Transition

“It’s not just physical contact, as I ‘touch’ people’s physical bodies, I believe I touch them in their soul.”


Rita experienced death at a very early age, when her good friend died of leukemia at the age of 6 she was just in first grade. By 25 she’d lost at least 50 people around her. Rita’s experience with death growing up made her more and more connected with something much deeper. As a daughter, the hardest transition was losing her beloved dad. At that time she was already practicing Shiatsu, which was a part of her life but not her dad’s. He was pretty disappointed that Rita had given up her career as an architect to pursue the healing arts. As time went by and the pain got worse, Rita offered Shiatsu every day to her dad. Their relationship at the end of life got stronger and stronger through touch. Touch was the only help for pain; even painkillers were unable to give him enough relief to sleep. Shiatsu was the only cure for that, and sometimes he was able to sleep for 24 hours at a time. When there were no words anymore, Rita saw his dad’s hand calling her for Shiatsu, which gave him strength to pass away peacefully in his beloved family’s arms.

This experience made her realize how important “touch” is to help ensure a person’s final days are spent as comfortably and contentedly as possible. Her life goal is to teach family members to be able to connect deeply with their loved ones. Rita strives to have family members present during hospice massage sessions, not just to observe but to participate — to learn how to be gentle with touch.

Physical touch is easily overlooked in the context of treating a serious medical problems, but it has a profound impact on person’s well-being. These modalities that Rita practices – Reiki, Shiatsu, and Cranio-Sacral Therapy – offer a type of healing, relief, and relaxation for hospice patients which conventional medical treatments cannot.

“I believe families sometimes have no way to connect with their loved ones, and massage can offer a unique connection. It can bring a sense of peacefulness in the end stages.”


Entering hospice may coincide with the end of a patient’s medical treatment, but the patient may yet live for months. Medical therapies designed to treat the disease or relieve pain take their own toll on the body and massage therapy is a gentle, effective way to address and reduce some of that stress.
Research shows that hospice massage can provide a degree of comfort and relaxation to alleviate pain, anxiety, stress, and depression.

Massage therapists work with patients on an intimate level. Even if no words are exchanged, the therapist can gain a sense of the patient’s emotional state, as well as his or her physical state of wellness. Therapists are trained to understand the body, and they can become the voice to advocate for the patient’s needs with physicians and family.

When a patient is nearing end of life, loneliness, fear, and depression are likely to set in. Massage therapists provide a form of undivided attention focused solely on the patient and their needs in that very moment. If nothing more, hospice massage provides a soothing and comforting presence for the patient.

Many patients who enter hospice have limited mobility or are entirely bedridden. Massage therapy relaxes the muscles and soft tissues, loosening the muscles and tendons to increase circulation. Improved circulation has a direct impact on pain management and can promote other benefits, such as reduced fatigue.

Terminally ill patients experience a significant degree of psychological distress, which can lead to anxiety and depression. One of the greatest barriers to treating depression in end-of-life patients is the belief that it is a universal experience among these patients.Hospice massage reduces stress and promotes emotional balance to relieve temporary symptoms of anxiety and depression in these and other patients.

Nearing end of life is a fearful and uncertain time for hospice patients. Massage therapy for hospice patients induces a relaxation response in the body, which triggers the release of serotonin in the brain. This chemical impacts thoughts and emotion, creating a sense of peace and a greater ability to cope with the uncertainty that lies ahead.
Recently published studies from the American Massage Therapy Association show that massage therapy has become one of the most frequently offered complementary therapies in hospice and palliative care. This type of care is focused on improving the patient’s quality of life in their final days when something as simple as a kind and attentive touch makes a world of difference.
At Keystone Hospice, we aim to provide our patients with comprehensive care that soothes more than just the physical pains of life. Massage therapy for hospice patients is just one of the services we provide to keep you or your loved one comfortable in the end stages of life.