“Patients tell me complementary therapy gives them a ‘holiday from pain’.”

Elaine Carpenter is Complementary Therapies Coordinator at Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice, leading a team of nine volunteers offering a wide range of complementary therapies to outpatients, inpatients, day hospice patients, carers and relatives as part of our holistic approach to palliative care. In this blog post, Elaine gives an insight into what complementary therapies are and how they help people at the hospice.

A patient receiving a head massage
A complementary therapist giving a patient a hand massage.
Complementary Therapies Coordinator Elaine with two volunteer therapists
Elaine with two of Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice's volunteer complementary therapists.

"Our focus is not on the time someone has, but on the quality of that time."

Complementary therapies may help people in so many ways - with sleep, relaxation or anxiety; reducing stress, constipation, and aches and pains; and improving people’s range of movement.

We offer a range of therapies and techniques at the hospice that can include massage, reflexology, aromatherapy, Reiki, Indian head massage, acupuncture, Bowen technique, Shiatsu and music therapy. We even offer chiropody.

We look after people living with a life-limiting condition, but our focus is not on the amount of time someone has, but on the quality of life they can have.

A patient who once taught dancing was finding it hard to walk when he first joined our day hospice programme due to the effects of treatment he’d been receiving. It was wonderful to see him stand to dance with his daughter during one of his sessions with us, as he enjoyed listening to music with our music therapist.

Looking after people with complex conditions

My role at the hospice is to assess patients and see which therapies might help address the symptoms they’re experiencing.

We look after people who often have very complex conditions – people with cancer, multiple sclerosis, Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, motor neurone disease, heart failure, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, lung conditions and brain tumours.

When a patient first comes to the hospice, they complete something called a ‘distress thermometer’ so we know exactly what symptoms, concerns and worries a patient has. We then work together with the patient and clinical staff to best address these symptoms or concerns.

For many patients it may be the first time they have experienced complementary therapy. After their first treatment, they are often surprised at how much the treatment helps with their condition and the relief it can give.

I work closely with the care and medical teams at the hospice. Each day we have a handover from Sue Ryder Nurses for each patient or carer, and I work with our amazing team of dedicated volunteer complementary therapists to deliver treatments across the two dedicated complementary therapy treatment rooms we have at the hospice and also on our inpatient unit.

"A patient once said that our treatments gave her a 'holiday from pain'."

I love seeing how our treatments help patients and benefit them. A patient once said that our treatments gave her a "holiday from pain". Another patient told me they normally had trouble sleeping, but they looked forward to our treatments at the hospice as they know following it they’d be able to get a good night’s sleep.

Many people have the misconception that hospices are a place of sadness but there is so much laughter here and we are in the most beautiful surroundings. A patient once said to me ‘I wish I had seen you two weeks ago - I just could not get comfortable’ and it’s really rewarding to hear how our therapies make a difference.

We employ a clinical approach to our therapies which is research-based and we highly value patients’ feedback in terms of whether they experience any benefit and improved quality of life following our therapies. We use the Measure Yourself Concerns and Well Being (MYCAW) tool to record this.

A team-based approach

Complementary therapy techniques have been rolled out to other members of the hospice team too. Some of our volunteers, Sue Ryder Nurses, Hospice at Home team and Nursing Assistants have been on the ‘M’-Technique course so they can give patients a gentle relaxing hand or foot massage, upskilling our volunteer and workforce so that they can give complementary therapies too.

None of this could happen without the volunteers who give their time and skills to be part of our team and support people in our care. I am in awe of our volunteers; many of them have had loved ones cared for here and they come back to help us.”

The team I work with are really amazing. They go above and beyond every day and at the forefront of everything we do are our patients.

Could you be our next complementary therapy volunteer?

Author

Complementary Therapies Coordinator Elaine Carpenter

Complementary Therapies Coordinator

Elaine Carpenter

Elaine leads a team of nine volunteers offering a wide range of complementary therapies to outpatients, inpatients, day hospice patients, carers and relatives at our Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice in Cheltenham.