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Where Do You Work? Massage Therapy in Eldercare and Hospice

"I love witnessing the profound difference sensitive massage and focused touch can make in the quality of life of people in nursing homes or hospice care," says Ann Catlin, director of Center for Compassionate Touch, LLC. 

Ann, an expert in the field of massage therapy in eldercare and hospice, will lead two sessions at this year's AMTA National Convention. Read on to find out how Ann got started in the profession and why she remains so passionate about her work.

What specifically drew you to the massage therapy profession?
I’ve been an occupational therapist since 1979 and have worked with people with physical and cognitive disabilities throughout my entire career. The last ten years of my work was spent working with elders in long-term care facilities where I learned about the needs of this special population—and about the strengths and weaknesses of nursing home care. I often heard myself say, “There’s got to be a better way to care for these people whose lives have been so broken by illness.” I noticed time and again that the clinical treatment plan didn’t have nearly the impact as being present and actually seeing the person.

Each of my patients back then became a teacher about the power of the human heart and touch. It was then that I decided to go to massage therapy school to enhance my skills and perhaps find a new direction. While in massage school, I discovered the approach called Compassionate Touch which is specifically designed for people in later life stages. I realized I could continue to work with the same population I’d known for 25 years but serve them in a more meaningful way—and contribute something positive to the elder-care system.

What has kept you in the profession?
I love witnessing the profound difference sensitive massage and focused touch can make in the quality of life of people in nursing homes or hospice care. I also enjoy development. In the last decade, I’ve seen a lot of growth in clinical massage programs in long-term care and hospice organizations. I’m honored to have played a role in making that happen and to expand this form of practice as a viable area of specialization for therapists.

What career path led you to your current position?
They say that when you are on your life’s path that opportunity and assistance appears. Since I began teaching Compassionate Touch® in 2001, I’ve known I am living my life on purpose. I created the Center for Compassionate Touch LLC in 2003 and the opportunities to expand this work continue to surprise and delight me. To hear more, come see me at the National Convention!

What types of education and experiences have aided in your success?
Clearly I have a focused interest, so I seek education in related areas such as Alzheimer’s disease, palliative care, and long-term care culture change. I attend conferences offered by eldercare and hospice organizations. I also have the privilege of presenting at some of these conferences, helping to establish massage programs in eldercare and hospice.

Why should attendees of the National Convention sign up for your sessions "Massage in Hospice Care: What’s Our Role?" and "Massage and Alzheimer’s Disease?" 
Perhaps a not-so-obvious reason is because we all are or will be caregivers for an elder or for someone who is ill, whether it be a friend, parent, co-worker or neighbor. Gaining some knowledge and skills about how to serve others through touch will help prepare us for this task. The obvious reason is to learn about what it takes to make eldercare and hospice a viable part of a massage practice. People often tell me that they leave a session feeling more in touch with their own compassionate heart—what could be better than that!

Read more about Ann's sessions at the AMTA 2011 National Convention: "Massage in Hospice Care: What’s Our Role?" and "Massage and Alzheimer’s Disease." View the full educational line-up and reserve your place at the premier event for massage therapists!

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