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Please find below our"feature article" taken from a TTNO newsletter.
This section will be updated regularly with new feature articles.

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Therapeutic Touch in Palliative Care: An Overview

We can't always change the outcome, but the possibility always exists to change the journey.

As health care professionals, compassion motivates us to keep searching for new ways to support patients through their dying process. Therapeutic Touch is one more tool, within our reach, that can be used in conjunction with, and even to enhance, other forms of treatment.

Therapeutic Touch (TT) is not a miracle cure, but it can comfort a patient who is beyond curing. TT is a gentle technique that facilitates the body's innate ability to heal itself. To paraphrase Florence Nightingale, "Nature alone cures and all that Nursing and Medicine [or Holistic Practices like Therapeutic Touch] do is to eliminate obstacles from that process." Therapeutic Touch assists the body to maximize whatever potential it possesses and to move towards whatever next step is required. Sometimes what the body needs to do next is to die and healing into death becomes equally valuable as healing into life.

Therapeutic Touch has been called a contemporary interpretation of ancient healing practices utilizing near touch and light touch to support and stimulate the body's own healing processes. It was developed in the early 1970's by Dr. Dolores Krieger, Professor Emerita of Nursing Science from New York University, and her colleague, Dora Kunz. Therapeutic Touch is currently being taught in more than 90 countries internationally and in Ontario in hundreds of health care facilities, universities and colleges.

The research base for Therapeutic Touch is impressive and constantly growing and has shown the potential for the following changes in the patient's status:

1. A profound relaxation response in two to four minutes for most patients.
2. Immune function is boosted in the patient and in the practitioner.
3. Acceleration in wound healing.
4. Reduction in anxiety levels.
5. Significant pain reduction (often in conjunction with analgesia).


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Throughout my 17 years of experience using Therapeutic Touch, I have found it most valuable in symptom management. After receiving TT, terminally ill patients often need less narcotic analgesia to maintain the same level of pain control. TT also seems to assist in settling the restlessness that besets patients who are close to death.

I've seen Therapeutic Touch make a lot of difference in how people cope under very difficult circumstances. TT helps to calm anxiety and alleviate fear in both patient and family. It also reduces stress levels and potential burnout in the practitioner. TT facilitates a state of quiet connectedness between loved ones and caregivers alike, and can be a strong ally for everyone affected by the dying process. TT is a practical tool that is easy to learn and doesn't require much time to practice. Although a full session can take 10- to 20-minutes, shortened forms of TT can be effectively practiced and can be performed concurrently with other tasks. Practitioners can also teach these simple, modified forms of TT to family members. This gives loved ones a positive way to be present in the hospital room- something that forges or maintains a state of connectedness between them and the dying patient, possibly even when the patient is comatose.

Toronto East General Hospital boasts the first Therapeutic Touch Outpatient Clinic in Canada and was started by the Palliative Care Coordinator to improve the quality of care for her patients. The clinic operates with a substantial waiting list, showing how much the community values this service. At Casey House, the AIDS Hospice in Toronto, the staff uses Therapeutic Touch on the patients daily to assist with symptom management. Casey House conducts onsite training sessions for staff, volunteers, significant others and family on a regular basis. Volunteers offer Therapeutic Touch treatments to cancer patients at the two Wellspring sites in Toronto. At some facilities patients receive Therapeutic Touch while chemotherapy is being administered, to reduce the side effects of nausea, vomiting and fatigue.

Most of the palliative care volunteer groups or hospices around the province are either including Therapeutic Touch training for their volunteers or are encouraging the volunteers to learn.

The growth of Therapeutic Touch in Ontario has been remarkable over the past fifteen years. Many of the palliative care programs that are offered through the Community College system provide credit hours for Therapeutic Touch training. The College of Nurses of Ontario has recognized Therapeutic Touch in the Implementation Standards of Practice for Nurses since 1990, and Therapeutic Touch has been acknowledged as a form of Self Reflective Practice.

Each institution is responsible for the development of policies and procedures for the use of Therapeutic Touch in its setting, and many agencies province-wide either have these in place now or these policies and procedures are in the development process.

Diane May RN, is a Recognized Practitioner/Teacher of Therapeutic Touch and the former President of The Therapeutic Touch Network of Ontario, and . she has facilitated workshops internationally over the past 15 years. Diane is the author of the book "The Therapeutic Touch Handbook: Level 1-Basic".


The Therapeutic Touch Network of Ontario 2002 - 2006, all rights reserved
Designed and Maintained by InSite Creations, last updated
January 2006

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