Benefits of Massage Therapy
We are big believers of the benefits of massage therapy for older clients in care homes where we work at.. Most massage therapy our Physios and OTs provide is paid for by the government through the Aged Care Funding Instrument (ACFI) some clients may also access massage through extras packages in homes, or paid for privately by family.
One of the CEOS at a home we worked at said “Your treatments are much more than massages. This may be the only caring touch they get all week.”
Massage therapy can be highly effective for an elderly client in care homes. However massaging an older client does come with potential risks that can be managed if the treating therapist is well trained and aware of them.
Keeping elderly clients safe is particularly important in a residential aged care home especially after COVID and Royal Commissions exposed some less than ideal care at times..
Massage is currently self-regulated in Australia and not legally limited to particular providers or a level of training. This means anyone can say they do massage and massage another without any particular training.
This is NOT a good idea however with elderly clients in residential aged care who have specific care needs that mean specific training is needed on massage.
We recommend older people however require specialised treatment delivered by allied health professionals (physiotherapists or occupational therapists) or nurses and carers trained in specific therapeutic aged care massage. Massage therapy is not routinely taught to OTs, PTs, RNS and carers for use in aged care homes (even when provided by companies doing pain management we have had therapists say they worked there for 2-3 years without having specific aged care massage training). So you should ask what additional training your therapist has done prior to treating.
More care is needed because older clients often have.
- Often many existing medical conditions. Massage therapy may be contraindicated (not able to be done) or need to be done with precautions for certain conditions i.e. DVT/fracture/infection/cellulitis/osteoporosis/chemotherapy and many more.
- Older clients generally have poorer circulation and may have pressure areas/wounds that need care around.
- Older clients generally have poorer skin condition/frail skin. It is very easy to bruise/tear an older client’s skin.
- Cognitive impairment. Having therapists trained in working with clients with dementia/challenging behaviours is often needed. Care needs to be taken not to frighten an older client with touch especially if they have a past history of trauma.
- Specific beliefs about pain and massage that prevent massage therapy being effective. Therapists trained in communication and rapport building helps get a more effective result.
- Older clients may need to be treated in beds or chairs, and can’t get on and off massage tables easily. Need to protect resident and therapist with good manual handling, and know how to safely reposition clients to treat specific areas of the body.
- Having a knowledge of an older person’s anatomy and physiology is essential.
- Older clients may not give good verbal/non-verbal feedback about if a massage is comfortable and helping. Pain is often under-reported by nursing home clients who may feel sore during and afterwards and not be able to report well.
- Need for COVID safe/hygiene -all of our staff undertake extensive training on use of PPE, COVID safe practice and have current flu vaccinations, and have or are organising vaccinations when available.
- Need to work in with existing medical team/care staff, clinical documentation and record keeping so the facility, resident and family are all able to know what is occurring. This is especially important when therapeutic massage forms part of ACFI directives which require specific documentation and record keeping.
There are numerous benefits of massage to an elderly client in a residential aged care home. Some of these include:
Recovery from trauma. Anyone who has suffered trauma may well be justifiably nervousness and distrustful around the new people in their life. Massage reaffirms to them that you are an ally and helps to reconnect them to positive touch sensations.
Physical recovery and balance. Massage is probably best understood from its association with sports injury, recovery and rehabilitation. Massage helps tissues to heal more quickly, improves circulation, stretches tight muscles and tones weak ones (i.e. balances the body), speeds up the removal of lactic acid and increases joint flexibility.
Improved mood. Massage helps the release of the body’s own happy chemicals, such as serotonin, and painkillers, such as endorphins. It also helps released somatised emotions (that is, emotions that are ‘stuck’ in the body). This can benefit people who are cranky, feeling sad (perhaps after a loss or while separated from their home and family), or that suffer from anxiety.
- Relieve pain
- Improve mood
- Improve behaviours
- Improve balance/proprioception. This may help reduce risk falls.
- Help a resident get back to activities.
- Improve blood flow
- Relieve swelling
- Improve immune system response
- Improve sensation
- Reduce risk of skin tears/pressure injuries/contractures developing.
- Increased funding for a facility when claiming massage as part of pain management under ACFI from Department of Health
- Helps improve bonds with family when they pay for additional massage as gifts for birthdays/special events or when they can’t visit them onsite.
Anyone who has had a massage and knows how wonderful it makes you feel will surely appreciate the benefits that it can have for an older client in a nursing home.
Contact us if…
- You live at home or reside in a retirement village/residential aged care facility and would like massage therapy from a trained allied health professional.
- You are a family/carer who feels a client would benefit from massage therapy as a gift or as part of an extras package. Funding subsidies may be available.
- You’d like additional training on massage therapy for older clients.
- You’re a facility manager wanting to start a safe and effective massage therapy program that helps with ACFI funding also.