Care Dimensions: 18 Lessons of a Hospice Massage Therapist

Voices of Care

18 Lessons of a Hospice Massage Therapist

Posted on June 2, 2017 by Susan Coffey, LMT

Care Dimensions massage therapist treating upper back of female hospice patient Gentle massage provided by Care Dimensions' licensed massage therapists can provide relief to sore muscles and reduce tension for hospice patients.
I started working as a hospice massage therapist over a year ago. Two hundred and sixty seven visits later, I am humbled by this work.

During my professional life as a massage therapist, many moments have touched my heart and reaffirmed my choice of careers, but none compare to those I have experienced while working with those who are dying.

Over and over again, I am granted entrance into the sacred space of families who are immersed in the journey towards death. I have found that in most cases, this space is carefully contained to include only those people who are closest to the patient. Each day that I walk into this bubble, I transform into the very best version of myself; knowing intuitively what to say, how to act, and how to touch. What I have learned is immeasurable and perhaps indescribable. These are but a few of the lessons:

  1. Every patient I meet will die.

  2. Every person deserves to be touched with love.

  3. Every person is beautiful.

  4. Presence is more important than technique.

  5. A massage session is 90 percent love and 10 percent massage.

  6. Family is the single most important thing in life.

  7. Intention matters.

  8. Time is relative.

  9. Eye contact is more important than the words I say.

  10. Every visit is different.

  11. It is easy to get caught up in the hopes of caregivers.

  12. I experience Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ Stages of Grief over and over again.

  13. I must be willing to be adaptable or “make do”.

  14. There are moments when my heart breaks.

  15. The car is a good place to cry.

  16. Music calms the body.

  17. Sometimes, running my hands through a patient’s hair is enough.

  18. Saying goodbye is important.


Massage is one of several complementary therapies available to Care Dimensions’ hospice patients.

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Since 1978, Care Dimensions has provided comprehensive and compassionate care for individuals and families dealing with life-threatening illnesses. As the non-profit leader in advanced illness care, we offer services in more than 95 communities in Eastern Massachusetts.