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From the Archives

Below are three sample Newsletters from the
COMPASSIONATE TOUCH for Those in Later Life Stages™ Archives.


Newsletter Fall 1996

   Notes from Dawn

In my office is a gift from a care facility administrator. It is a framed photograph of a single red rose on a long stem. Below the photograph is written, "I can complain because the rose bush has thorns or rejoice because the thorn bush has a rose. It is all up to me." I have reflected many times on the implications of this statement as I experience and observe the power that this single shift in perception can have in how we live our lives and in how we relate to others.

I have two clients in an extended care facility whom I have been seeing twice a month for over two years. They are both bedridden and reside in the same room, one by the window and one by the door to the hallway. They both have access to the same services and are each served food from the same source. These two women seldom receive visitors from outside the facility. One woman is always pleasant, cheerful and expresses her gratitude for small and simple things, the other woman complains bitterly and constantly about her predicament, about the bed, about the staff, about the food and about the unfairness of life.

A few months ago, I fell and injured my ankle, not badly but enough to weaken it and cause me some annoying discomfort. A few days later, I was on a family outing. As I walked from place to place that day, I began to notice that at a certain point in each step I took, my ankle hurt. I then noticed that there was also a point in each step I took when my ankle did not hurt. I decided to try to focus on that point instead of on the point of pain. By shifting my attention in this small way and focusing on the space between the points of pain, I was able to walk on without being bothered by the discomfort and enjoy the day.

A colleague of mine is recovering from her third bout with cancer. This time the cancer is in a bone in her hip. She has undergone radiation and chemotherapy and is now using a walker. I received a letter recently from her in which she says that while she is home bound she is keeping busy fixing up her spare bedroom so she can help care for her daughter's baby when it is born. She goes on to say, "It seems like a gift from heaven for this to be happening right now ..."I've come to realize that there's no use trying to understand everything. That acceptance of what is (if it cannot be changed) is crucial."

Winter 1997 Newsletter

  from Dawn’s desk

Last fall, I gave training workshops in two eastern states. In addition to the beautiful fall foliage and the gracious, and generous people I met in both places, the quality of life and care in the two facilities, which hosted these workshops (and the fact that several staff members in each facility voluntarily took the workshop) gave me hope and inspiration. I came home from this memorable trip feeling refreshed and enriched.

Foxdale, a fairly new Quaker-directed facility in State College, Pennsylvania, provides three levels of care to 230 residents in simple yet attractive buildings on beautifully maintained grounds. Feeling that any form of restraint may be an assault to the physical and emotional well being of its residents, Foxdale strives in every way possible to provide optimal health care while preserving the dignity of those whom it serves. In addition to a wide variety of planned and spontaneous activities, a computer lab, a 7,000 volume library and a music listening library are open to all residents. An art gallery with a variety of artistic creations produced by residents, rivals many public galleries I’ve visited. The environment is set up for the convenience and pleasure of the residents, who are treated with loving respect, upholding a conviction that all life is sacred, regardless of age or state of health.

Bethany Health Center in Framingham, Massachusetts, is part of a large complex built in 1921, which included a retirement center for the Sisters of St. Joseph’s as well as a hospital. The current 150-bed skilled nursing facility, open to the public, was built in 1962. It is attached to the original building by a glassed-in walkway filled with hanging flowers and benches where one can pause and look out over gently sloping hills and lakes. Several workshop participants commented on how different this facility seemed from others they had been in. The serenity and quiet in the environment was one of the most striking features. The staff seemed to be respectful, caring, and non-intrusive in carrying out their duties and in relating to the residents. The residents seemed to treat each other with respectful concern and kindness. There were television sets in almost every room, but few were turned on while were there. Instead, many residents were engaged in quiet conversation with a staff member or another resident. Some were reading, and some silently observing other activities. This particular nursing facility seems to be a place that supports a contemplative life for those in later life stages whose infirmities require round the clock nursing care, a place where the dignity of elders is preserved, and a place where compassion flows naturally.

May your own practice of compassion, in whatever form it takes, bring you peace, joy and equanimity.


from letters received. . .

Your Power of Touch in Facility Care video does a wonderful job, in10 minutes, of explaining the importance of massage in addressing the failure to thrive syndrome with the elderly. I showed this video at a facility where I offer geriatric massage in 15-minute sessions. Seven family members were present for the video showing. Immediately after viewing the video, six of those signed up their family member for a massage session, or several sessions. The other family member stopped me in the hall a few weeks later and asked if I could come in and do a session with her mom who had suffered a stroke and had hemiperises on her right side. The daughter had been trying to get her mom's right hand to open up with no success. I worked on all the muscles in the contracted hand for fifteen minutes, it opened up. The daughter was totally amazed!
Janet McPherson, R.N., L.M.T., Niagara Falls, New York

I started volunteering at a local skilled nursing facility. . . After many discussions with the administrator, and department heads, we were able to work out a system where some residents have their massage paid for at a nominal fee. The family or their account is billed directly. . . The work I do with the residents has been so rewarding. . . Some of the residents have no or very few contacts with the outside world. Some have very little contact with their families. They are touched by the nurses, doctors, and CNA’s but the touch they receive from me is something special. . . I have calmed a person to sleep after having a violent seizure, or made a person’s day a little brighter. . .
Micky Anderson, LMT, Medford, Oregon

Summer/Fall 1998 Newsletter

Saying Yes to Life

In a recent verbal “tug of war” with my 11-year old daughter, I heard myself exclaim in frustration, “You have to learn to accept no!” Matching my tone, she exclaimed, “And you have to learn to say yes more often!” Looking beyond the moment, I realized that one of my children had, once again, succeeded in pushing me into confronting a basic issue in my life. I reflected for days on the truth in my daughter’s comment, on what it means to say yes to life and on how I might say yes more often.

Not long ago, I received a telephone call from an old family friend telling me that her oldest son had died. It was difficult to grasp the fact that the strong young lad of our memories, now a father of two, could have been felled so unexpectedly and quickly by a deadly disease in the prime of his life. The next day a colleague of my husband called asking for advice. His wife’s best friend, age 31 with two small children had been diagnosed with a cancer that would likely allow her little time to live. . .

I went to graduate school with a woman whose husband offered to walk to the corner grocery one night to pick up a few things for dinner. Minutes later, crossing a street, he was hit by a truck. His body was unrecognizable when she arrived at the hospital with their two young children and he died without regaining consciousness.

Birth inevitably leads to death. Life is full of uncertainty, brief, at best, and its length is unpredictable. We cannot know what will happen next week or even in the next moment; nor can we know how long our sojourn on this earth will last.

Accepting the reality of impermanence helps us to understand the preciousness of each moment. Whatever unfolds for us, we can still say yes--we can allow our passion, our awe, our grief, our joy, to emerge and to express itself. In the midst of chaos and catastrophe, devastation disaster, and all the dualities of existence, we can open to, and embrace our aliveness. It is never too late to respond, to wake up, to say yes to life.

from the mail. . .

I have used your book in extended care facilities in establishing a massage and gentle touch program. . . I also own two of your videos and use them for in services . . . My background prior to becoming a Licensed Massage Practitioner was as a Registered Nurse. I worked for many years in the Cancer Center at Southwest Washington Medical Center and was involved with Hospice from 1978-1994. The last project I tackled before leaving Hospice was to establish a special team to serve patients in nursing homes.

I have an opportunity to teach an elective course in geriatric massage at a local massage school this Fall. I am planning to use your book Compassionate Touch... as the primary text. I also plan to use the videos. . . My hope for the course is to introduce massage students to the special needs of the elderly and the ill while they are still in massage training. . . .
Karen Riggs, RN, LMP, Vancouver, Washington

My Eldersage Caring Touch program in Nursing Homes is growing slowly. I now visit four places and have 1-11 clients in each place. There is a possibility one may put me on staff in the near future. This would be great as the first step to my vision of a massage therapist in every nursing facility within two-five years. . . Your book, the complete nursing home and hospice kits plus all the videos so far, I not only know by heart but use everyday with the wonderful folks I work with.
Shirley Rutherford, Manchester, N.H.


Gloria Baumann, CMT

took a three day Workshop in January of 1998. Since she lived near the multi level facility where the training was held, Gloria chose to do her documented sessions in fulfillment of the Caregiver Level Certification with residents there. Both her presence in the facility and her service to the residents were well received. Several family members were willing to pay Gloria to continue seeing their loved ones. A helpful administrator found a small space (former storage closet) that she allowed Gloria to convert to a massage room. The facility paid for a carpet and some wall shelves for the room and Gloria now spends one day a week at the facility working with mobile residents who can comfortably receive massage on a table and with staff members who pay directly for their massages. She also works with some clients in their rooms in the Alzheimer’s Unit and the Assisted Living portion of the facility.

Dorothy Chaknova, CTM

and a former Hospice Home Health Aid, who is currently completing the COMPASSIONATE TOUCH® Professional Practitioner Training, has begun working one day a week at Habitat for Life, a 160-bed assisted living facility, in Concord, California. The owner-administrator contacted us looking for someone to start a program to serve residents, staff and family members (designating a room and buying a state of the art massage table for this purpose!) This particular administrator even appointed a staff member to book the sessions.

(Note: Dorothy is currently a Chaplain at Mercy Care Center in Oakland, CA)