In this Post: Learn geriatric massage techniques. When massaging the elderly it is important to proceed with care and caution, here you will be presented with 7 tips to help you increase your hands-on skills.
One of my greatest joys as a massage therapist has been the pleasure of being able to give my now 97-year-old grandmother massages. She had not received many massages in her life prior to me becoming a therapist. Now, she might be called a seasoned massage veteran. I absolutely love this time to connect with her.
In the past two weeks, I have had the pleasure to work with not one but two women in their 90’s. One was 95, the other (my grandmother) 97. Listening to the stories these women have to share is absolutely incredible. The changes they have seen in their almost 100 years of being on this earth are enormous!
Elderly people can benefit from massage just as much as anyone else. While it might seem a bit scary at first, with a bit of practice, the rewards for doing this type of work are amazing! When you slow down enough to engage in this type of massage, your eyes will be opened in so many ways!
7 Geriatric Massage Techniques
- You must slow down. Not only does your hands-on work typically need to move at a slower pace, so does the intake process, the dressing and undressing, and the getting to and from the car.
- Falling: One of the biggest hazards for the elderly is falling. Therefore, I like to walk next to my elderly clients the whole time they are moving around my office. I like to point out odd steps and weird obstacles.
- Vision: Sometimes there are issues with vision, therefore you might need to talk them through your intake process.
- Dressing: This population of clients may need help dressing or undressing, and physically getting onto the table. With all of these things in mind, it is always a good idea to schedule a little extra time when you are working on an elderly client.
- You must be flexible! If you have a super rigid approach to massage this type of massage might not be for you. Maybe you have a set sequence, or are only comfortable with prone and supine work. If this is the case, consider geriatric massage out of the question. With a myriad of health issues, each client must be approached from a very tailored point of view. What may work for one 90 year old, might not work for the next.
- Limit AROM and stretching. The elderly tend to be a bit more fragile than say the marathon runner you massaged before them. So please don’t do any crazy frog hip opening stretches!
- Limit position changes. Prone can be a very difficult position for the elderly, as can moving around a lot in general. Learn how to work on the back from the supine position. Or maybe they might be fully clothed, and sitting in a chair. You can still do nice work over their clothing if you have an open mind to the idea of how loving touch can be administered.
- Trigger point and friction work should be avoided. The elderly’s skin can be paper thin. The last thing you would want to do was tear their skin. Working in a conscious manner with broad strokes, lots of lubricant, and a slow pace are the name of the game. Don’t be too scared though. Often the elderly can still take a nice amount of pressure, it just must be applied in a gentler way.
Listen and Learn
- Listen, the elderly have a lot to share! You might hear the same stories a time or two, but maybe you needed to. I mean living through the Great Depression, WW2, the advent of phones, the automobile, and internet. Come on, how cool is that?
- They are so appreciative! You are hard pressed to find another clientele that will show as much gratitude as your aging clients.
Continuing Education For Geriatric Massage Techniques
Interested in taking some CE credits in Geriatric Massage Techniques? Check out the Day Break Geriatric Massage Institute, they are the leaders in teaching massage therapists how to massage the aging community.
I was able to connect my grandmother with a massage therapist in her area for a while. This therapist ended up moving, so the relationship is no more. But while it lasted it was wonderful to hear about the health benefits my grandmother was receiving on a regular basis! The relief she felt was remarkable and helping facilitate that felt great!
Whenever I work on another elderly client I think of my grandmother and the massage therapist who used to work on her. I try to harness the same level of care I want for my grandmother on the elderly client in front of me. I typically end up falling in love with them and their stories. What a rewarding job!