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Massage as Healthcare

Mental health plays an important role in coping with illness

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When someone is facing an illness the center of attention is primarily on physical health and well-being. Addressing physical symptoms and identifying the appropriate remedies to cure or manage the illness is the main focus of time and energy for the patient and physician, but our mental health also plays an important role in effectively coping with illnesses and our overall ability to heal.

Dr. Desmonette Hazly, Greet The Day’s Integrative Health and Wellness Chair, works with many community groups. A recent project of hers has been to help design and implement integrative health courses for the Integrated Service Management (ISM) program at Alma Family Services, Los Angeles, to support people in culturally-diverse communities who are facing chronic and life-threatening illnesses like cancer.

An important component of the ISM program is providing participatory experiences that can positively affect quality of life and Dr. Hazly teaches the integrative health modalities and culinary arts courses where ISM participants are introduced to various types of integrative health concepts and skills, and then are encouraged to put them into practice.

Aromatherapy, Yoga, Art, Massage, Music, Meditation and Food

Alma ISM program participants learn about aromatherapy, yoga, art and music therapy, meditation and many other integrative health subjects in Dr. Hazly’s classes, and she says “My classes are always full when I teach massage therapy and culinary arts.”

“Learning how to incorporate integrative wellness practices into busy lives is not the only outcome for the ISM program. Many participants report that they experience positive changes in various aspects of their lives.” ISM program director Elsy Molina LCSW also sees the personal growth and notices “a sense of trust and familiarity among class participants, and a great majority of participants verbalizing how much of a difference their participating in these classes have on their mood and their physical health”.

The classes that Dr. Hazly instructs at Alma Family Services, are 3-month certificate courses that culminate with graduation ceremonies where family and friends attend. It is at these graduation celebrations that participants and staff alike realize the tremendous growth of the clients and how their lives have changed. “Clients seem to be more committed to implementing new knowledge and techniques learned in the culinary arts & integrative health & wellness classes into their daily practices, and are happy to report on the positive reactions of their family members with these practices”, reports Ms. Molina, Alma’s ISM program director.

About Alma
Alma Family Services, Los Angeles, is dedicated to advancing the quality of life of families and individuals coping with a range of needs including significant emotional difficulties, substance abuse and/or developmental challenges. For over 40 years Alma has provided mental health services to the community and collaborates with health care facilities and other agencies to serve and support people who are facing chronic and life-threatening illnesses like cancer.

About the Integrated Service Management (ISM) program
Alma Family Services understands the connection of mind, body and spirit and provides comprehensive integrative health services for their clients via their Latino Community Designed Integrated Service Management (ISM) program.

The Alma ISM program is directed by Elsy Molina LCSW, and is designed to promote culturally sensitive community-based partnerships that integrate health, mental health and substance abuse services with non-traditional services to support healing and recovery. Participants in the ISM program receive an abundance of supportive care from therapists, case managers and collaborative non-traditional service providers.

When speaking about ISM and the integrative health services, participants attest to how their physical and mental health have been enhanced and express deep appreciation for the opportunity to have access to services that are more congruent to the healing practices of their native culture. “My energy levels have increased, and it is evident my mood is the best it has been in a while and I feel motivated to do a million things. I feel inspired”, states one of the graduating ISM participants.

The ISM program embraces their clients as unique individuals who are also part of a valued and cherished community. Participants know and understand that the program is there to provide compassionate services and support them heart, mind and Alma (soul).

Massage Therapy, an Integral Part of Integrative Health Program at Primary Hospice Care

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Hospice services are not only for the patient but also for the family of the patient. Relieving the physical, mental and emotional suffering of the family unit is tremendously important, and at the same time very complex.

Dr. Desmonette Hazly, Director of Social Medicine at Primary Hospice Care, has taken an integrative health approach to insure the comfort and focuses on quality of life of the hospice patients she serves. Hazly’s hospice integrative care program is composed of various wellness and complimentary medicine modalities and includes art, music and massage therapy, social interactive activities, pet therapy visits and a reading program that has trained volunteers read aloud to patients. The patients and their families enjoy all of these services, but it is the massage therapy program that has had the most impact on patients and their families, hospice staff and community partners.

In addition to her extensive academic background Hazly is also a certified medical massage therapist and she has successfully included this skill in her programs for the chronically and terminally ill. Hospice staff and partnering medical service professionals receive massage therapy training from Hazly to help them better serve the palliative care needs of their patients. They then in turn can provide direction and support for patient family members who want to learn how to provide comforting, caring, safe touch for their loved ones.

Non-pharmacological approaches
“Non-pharmacological approaches to alleviate pain and discomfort and increase relaxation are much-welcomed skills that all health care service providers should learn to help them better serve their patients.” states Robert Nayoan, Director of Patient Care Services, Primary Hospice Care. Family members also receive reflexology and Shiatsu (acupressure-based) massage applications to help them cope better with the stresses of caregiving.

Hazly also teaches integrative wellness self-care to medical and health care professionals to help them more effectively manage their day to day stress, improve their personal wellness, increase productivity and decrease compassion fatigue.

“Being able to alleviate the suffering of the sick and dying is a very special privilege. My goal is to always make the patient and their families as comfortable as possible and bring some serenity and calm into their lives at this stressful time.” Desmonette Hazly, MSW PhD