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Bringing Christmas cheer to body and soul

We are helping patients and their families relax into Christmas with complementary therapies including aromatherapy massages laced with festive scents like sandalwood, ginger and frankincense.

Human touch is so important, especially over the Christmas period -- it can ease pain, reduce irritability and lead to a peaceful night’s sleep. The wide selection of therapies offered by ellenor are all designed to help patients and their families feel uplifted, both physically and mentally.

Senior complementary therapist Sally Baker said: “Touch is a real comfort around Christmas. We should be thinking of people who are grieving or living on their own at this time of year and offering them as much support as we can.

“We all need human touch, especially during emotionally challenging times. It has been proved that regular touching improves pain reduction and can boost our overall wellbeing. Coming to the hospice for some hands-on therapy is a real comfort and it’s not always the patient that we help – we help their families as well.

“Partners or carers are often missing human touch just as much as the person who is ill. They may still be with each other but are unable to make that physical connection. Complementary therapies can also ease grief or loss in whatever form that takes. It’s like being wrapped in a comfort blanket.”

ellenor offers support to in-patients, day patients and their families, carers and the bereaved. It has a holistic approach to their care, with ellenor’s Wellbeing team working closely with clinical staff to find the best care plan for patients and their families.

Since Covid restrictions have been lifted, therapists have been able to offer more hands-on sessions again at the hospice in Gravesend. Strict hygiene procedures in the therapy rooms -- more PPE and intensive cleaning programmes between each patient – mean patients and their families can feel confident they are being treated in a safe environment.

Sally said: “Christmas is a time when friends, family and neighbours all come together, shake hands or hug.  We need to show love and tenderness to anyone who is unwell and to those people around them.

“We offer all sorts of therapies at ellenor including therapeutic holistic massage on any part of the body, maybe back, legs, shoulders or head. We also offer Indian head massage, aromatherapy massage using oils, and we do reflexology, which can be on the feet, hands or face.

“Especially at Christmas time we can use aromas in our therapies that are reminiscent of the season -- frankincense, Sandalwood, black spruce, ginger, orange and mandarin. They are the positive smells of our Christmases past.

“We also offer aromastick personal inhalers to people to help them relieve symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression, loneliness, grief and insomnia.”

It takes a great deal of trust on the part of the patient to allow a therapist to touch their body and Sally feels honoured to have that privilege. ellenor therapists approach new patients gently and take time to talk to them about their symptoms before the first session, and explore any fears they might have about the treatment.

Sally said: “It is very important that the patient feels comfortable with their therapist and with the therapist touching them. When we meet the patients, we always talk with them first and put them at their ease and gain their trust. We have empathy and compassion – and very good listening skills.

“We always seem to get very positive results and have had some glowing feedback from our patients. If someone says before a session that they have pain and they tell you afterwards that the pain has gone, that’s a little bit of evidence, although it’s not scientific.”

For people too sensitive to touch, or simply don’t like it, ellenor therapists also offer reiki, a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation. This can be done with a light touch, or the therapist can place their hands just above the body of the patient.

Sally said: “This can be very useful for someone who is very poorly or end of life. The results of therapies like reiki are encouraging more people in the medical world to accept their benefits. To try them you must have an open mind and be willing to explore your spirituality.”

ellenor’s complementary therapists supported people through their stress and anxiety during the pandemic via Zoom and they continue to offer online mindfulness sessions.

Sally said: “Covid changed all of our lives, and a lot of people’s wellbeing has been severely affected. Mindfulness can reduce levels of stress straight away. It helps improve patients’ mental wellbeing by encouraging them to focus on their own thoughts and feelings in the present moment.

“People have also really missed touch during the pandemic. Touch is so important to everyone, whether they are ill, grieving, or lonely, and we should all remember that this Christmas.

She urged all of us to check in on people who have been bereaved this Christmas, as well as those living alone or isolated from their family and friends.

She said: “We want everyone to know that ellenor is here for them, 24/7. You can come to us, and we will be your family, your friends and your neighbours -- and give you that love, comfort and support that everyone needs at Christmas.”