Geriatric massage training prepares a massage therapist to work with the special needs of elderly clients. Although the needs of older clients can vary greatly, geriatric massage training takes into account that the physical and mental abilities of some older people require specialised knowledge on the part of a massage therapist to provide safe and effective massage therapy.
Changes with Age
Massage therapists need to be aware of age-related changes that can affect how well massage is tolerated and what types of massage are appropriate. Older people are more susceptible to painful, and sometimes disabling, conditions such as arthritis and spinal problems. Older skin is less elastic and contains less moisture, making it more susceptible to bruising and tearing. If an older person becomes less mobile, the result can be poor circulation, decreased lung capacity and a gradual loss of muscle strength and tone.
Older people are more likely to have contraindications (conditions that make massage inadvisable), such as blood clot, inflammation of veins, severe swelling or abdominal aneurysm. Also, people who have had stroke or heart problems need an OK from their doctor before receiving massage.
Basic Geriatric Massage Training
A basic geriatric massage workshop typically covers these topics: physiological, psychological and sociological aspects of ageing, how to assess clients' needs, cautions and contraindications, and how to modify standard massage techniques and develop special methods appropriate for each client's physical conditions. The training might also include practical work on older people and how to set up a geriatric massage practice.
Advanced Geriatric Massage Training
Advanced geriatric massage training workshops are also available. They focus on specific approaches to massaging people who have had a stroke or heart attack, diabetes, dementia, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease or arthritis. These approaches also cover people who are confined to bed or a wheelchair or who are near death.
Many massage schools and some continuing massage education providers offer courses in geriatric massage. When choosing a geriatric massage training course, look at the experience of the instructor in geriatric massage and the details of what's offered in the course.
Another Training Insight
Offering massage to elderly people also can have psychological effects on the massage therapist, especially when working with people who are dying. A good training program will offer tips on dealing with these psychological issues. For example, in "Massage For Elders: An Ever-Growing Opportunity," geriatric massage therapist Joan S. Lohman suggests that geriatric massage therapists develop specific attitudes and professional skills, such as setting boundaries, waiting patiently and honouring individual differences, as a way to both respect themselves and their older clients.