Integrative Healing Therapies Provide Peace To Patients And Their Families

Integrative healing therapies, such as aromatherapy and music therapy, enhance Fairview Home Care and Hospice patients’ comfort and quality of life.

Integrative Therapies Feature Image Alice, with her granddaughter, Maddie Renneke.

As Nancy Renneke's mother, Alice, approached the end of her life, Nancy's highest priority was ensuring that she felt comfortable, safe and pain-free in her final days. Nancy turned to Fairview Home Care and Hospice, who offered Alice integrative healing therapies to soothe both her body and her soul.

Integrative healing therapies are services such as music therapy, aromatherapy or massage therapy designed to promote physical and psychological well-being. In addition to traditional medical care, Fairview Home Care and Hospice offers patients these services to improve their comfort level and quality of life.

"Our patients are introduced to integrative healing therapies at the start of their care," says Sandy McGurran, Fairview Home Care and Hospice social work supervisor. "We provide an integrative healing therapy menu that the clinician can refer to with education about how these therapies provide symptom support."

For Nancy, working with Fairview to customize her mother's care let her know that they were both in good hands.

“The entire Fairview Home Care and Hospice team was so lovely, comforting and accommodating to my mother and our whole family,” says Nancy. “They were sensitive to what my mom liked and didn’t like, even when she couldn’t really voice her feelings."

Adding peace to end-of-life care

Integrative healing therapies such as aromatherapy and music therapy added tranquility to Alice’s hospice experience.

“I told our hospice workers that my mom does not like strong, floral scents, so when they suggested trying a calming oil that had lavender in it as part of her aromatherapy, I was skeptical,” says Nancy. “I was pleasantly surprised because it ended up being very calming for my mother."

Sandy regularly uses essential oils with her patients and has seen how the calming oil is beneficial.

"Calming oil has different essential oils in it, all of which play diverse roles in the body," says Sandy. "For example, lavender relaxes the human body. Bergamot is uplifting and provides balance, and frankincense is a grounding oil that assists with pain and circulation."

Helping the whole family

In addition to soothing Alice, certain integrative healing therapies put Nancy’s entire family at ease.

“My mother’s music therapy was an experience we will never forget,” says Nancy. “The music therapist was able to understand what was right for my mother and also read cues about when music therapy wasn’t right. After my mother was overstimulated by the music once, he came back at a later time to play her favorite song. Her breathing changed, she relaxed, she wasn’t agitated—it was wonderful."

Advice for others

Watching a loved one undergo end-of-life care can be sorrowful and difficult. Nancy believes keeping an open mind during a loved one’s hospice care will help others going through a similar situation.

“Our team from Fairview Home Care and Hospice had so much experience caring for people at the end of life, so I think listening to their suggestions is important,” says Nancy. “They will adjust their work to each individual, they are sensitive and they are kind-hearted. You can trust them to help your loved one."

Beyond hospice care

Integrative healing therapies can help people in all stages of life, and there are many ways people can weave these therapies into their lives to improve mood, pain, nausea and anxiety.

Sandy offers a few tips:

  • Start incorporating integrative healing therapies into daily life with simple breath work. Utilizing breath work and then expanding that to meditating or doing deep breathing each day will help with stress and relaxation.
  • Talk to a certified clinical aromatherapist about essential oils and how they can support the body, mind and spirit. There are also classes offered in some communities, such as at Normandale Community College, about essential oils.
  • Make time regularly for enjoyable, refreshing activities. Simple things like meditation, attending a yoga class, walking outside, laughing with friends, journaling about gratitude or coloring in a mandala coloring book can make people feel better.
  • Re-frame different times throughout the day that are usually stressful and use that time to relax and breathe. When encountering a stressful situation, it's important to think, "relax, exhale, deep breathe."

Sandy also emphasizes that it's important to remember integrative healing therapies are not supposed to be a main form of care, but are helpful when used along with a physician's care plan.

More information

For those interested, therapeutic aromatherapy oils are available at all Fairview pharmacies.

This program is funded in part by Fairview Foundation. 

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