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30th January 2020 Latest News Creative Health

Pets, massage, arts help terminally ill patients

pets massage arts help terminally ill patients

Therapy dog Monte lifts patients’ spirits at Modbury hospital.

A unique Complementary Therapy program involving pet visits, therapeutic massage, music and art at Modbury Hospital has been helping raise the spirits and manage pain of more than 150 patients living with a terminal illness.

The program is being funded by The Hospital Research Foundation to help improve the quality of life of patients and families in palliative care.

Dr John Maddison, Director of Aged Care, Rehabilitation and Palliative Care at Modbury Hospital, said the program had shown great benefits for in-patients since its introduction in May.

“There is well researched evidence to show the benefits of complementary therapy in improving the quality of life for people living with a terminal illness,” Dr Maddison said.

“This includes improvements in pain, physical and psychological comfort, the time and length of treatment and overall quality of life.”

The complementary therapies offered within Modbury Hospital’s palliative care include:

  • Encouraging patients and families to bring their own pet to visit as well as establish a relationship with therapy dog Monte, which supports scientific evidence that interaction with gentle, friendly pets can have significant benefit to a person’s health and wellbeing
  • Providing therapeutic massage to improve pain, fatigue, stress/anxiety, nausea and depression, including specialised oncology massage to relieve symptoms in patients with cancer
  • The use of essential oils to promote relaxation and sleep, reduce stress and support wellbeing, with oils specifically chosen based on their traditional use, recommended efficacy and scientific results
  • Music therapy via CD players, radios and scheduled performances featuring world renowned classical guitarist Slava Gregorian, the Threshold Singers and volunteers from the Elder Conservatorium
  • An art therapy open studio which has been adapted to patients’ capacity and includes card making, family and memory trees, mandala colouring, simple collage and craft activities.

Monte lifts patients’ spirits

The program is helping patients like Tania Martin (pictured), who has sadly been diagnosed with a terminal illness and will spend her last weeks in Modbury Hospital’s palliative care unit.

Tania has taken a particular fondness to therapy dog Monte.

“It makes me happy, he’s just got that positive aura around him,” Tania said.

“I think we’re lucky to have a program like this.

“It breaks the day up and a lot of the time he’ll pop in when someone’s maybe having a sad moment – and he just brings so much joy to the ward.”

Monte’s handler, Donna, visits the ward once a week.

“I’m so glad he’s making people’s lives that little bit happier,” she said.

Complementary therapies help patients connect

Dr Maddison said the program at Modbury Hospital was helping to provide patients with a connection to their life before they were ill and encouraged them to share their feelings.

“For many, pets are or have been a member of the family. There is well-known and scientific evidence that interaction with gentle, friendly pets can have significant benefit to a person’s health and sense of wellbeing,” Dr Maddison said.

“And music is a lifelong companion. Offering music can provide a person in palliative care the option to make their own choices and maintain a connection to their life prior to illness.

“On one occasion we also had three generations of family use the art studio to come together to create cards, hearts and paintings for their loved one.”

He said therapeutic massage was important to relieve pain for patients.

“It requires gentle touch and adaptation to the individual’s specific needs.

“To further complement this, we are training volunteers to provide a gentle touch hand therapy service. Light contact touch can support, soothe and offer comfort during times of increased distress and agitation.

“We are very grateful to The Hospital Research Foundation for funding this program to help palliative care patients and carers.

“We have seen significant growth in people utilising these services since it first started in May and we predict this growth will continue with the introduction of more therapy options for our patients,  and the invitation to our community clients.”

Thank you to our generous community of donors and ticket buyers in the Hospital Research Home Lottery who make programs such as this possible!