ellenor’s senior complementary therapist Sally Baker leads a team of five qualified volunteer therapists who typically offer patients massage, reiki, reflexology and aromatherapy treatments. Although restrictions due to Covid have meant some of these treatments aren’t currently available, complementary therapies have become more vital than ever to help people’s wellbeing during the pandemic.
Sally has been part of the team at ellenor in Kent for four years, and is a passionate advocate of the benefits complementary therapies offer. “At ellenor, we’re all about offering truly holistic treatment – dealing with every aspect of a patient’s health, not just the physical. What our team offers is treatment and support that enables patients and their families to handle what they’re going through better. Complementary treatments like ours can help them to cope with the medical treatment they’re given and the stress of worrying in uncertain times.”
“Between us, we used to see an average of about 15 patients a week, either in the inpatient ward or bookable sessions for outpatients in the therapy room” she explains. “Come lockdown though, we could no longer offer hands-on sessions for people. We had to find answers fast to familiar challenges, and to some new ones too”.
Adapting therapies to the pandemic
The worry and uncertainty caused by the Covid pandemic along with everything else that ellenor patients and their families have to deal with, have meant that wellbeing support such as complementary therapies have become very important. Therapies involving touch, however, have of course been put on hold.
“We realised what we could offer as an alternative is support via telephone and online meetings. We’ll offer support for anything from general anxiety to more specific issues such as insomnia.”
Sally and her team began phoning patients and their relatives at the start of lockdown to discuss any anxieties they might have and how complementary treatments might help them. As a result, attendance numbers at online group meetings, during which Sally offers meditation, relaxation and stress-management techniques to participants, have quadrupled.
“Pre-Covid, when we started these sessions we’d meet at the hospice once a week and I’d have about four takers – now I regularly have around sixteen. And though we don’t have face-to-face contact, one of the arguable advantages of meeting virtually is that those who want to take part but can’t make the journey to the hospice can still join in. Attendees that want to stay private for whatever reason don’t have to be seen or heard – they can switch off their cameras, so they can see me but the rest of us can’t see them.”
Benefits to wellbeing
Sally explains that the sessions have had positive feedback. “It was so rewarding to hear one participant in our zoom relaxations sessions, who’s been dealing with all the emotions surrounding bereavement, say she’d been blown away to discover just how much support there is for families, not just at the end of life stage, but afterwards too. She told me, ‘Even in lockdown, you don’t feel alone’ which was just brilliant to hear.”
But what about those who don’t have access to a computer or smart phone for virtual support? Sally says that these are the individuals she and her team tend to connect with regularly via phone. She’s also sent out relaxation CDs in the post as a substitute for the online meetings.
The support extends to colleagues too, as she’s been offering mindfulness and relaxation sessions to staff and volunteers. Tracey Hill, ellenor’s Head of Support Services, has been recommending them: “We’ll reap the benefits – I’ve found it’s a short while in which I can calm my mind and allow myself time to recharge.”
Sally says she is passionate about the benefits of complementary therapy because she’s witnessed its positive effects first-hand over many years, for many different people and in many different situations. “It is absolutely invaluable, helping to alleviate physical pain, enabling people to come to terms with sometimes very difficult emotions, as a form of stress relief, and as part of a coping strategy.
“I feel so grateful that even in today’s challenging circumstances, when it’s more important than ever, ellenor is still able to offer complementary therapies to our patients, their families and our own team.”
Our Frontline is a partnership between Shout, Samaritans, Mind, Hospice UK and The Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. It offers round-the-clock one-to-one support, by call or text from trained volunteers, plus resources, tips and ideas to look after your mental health.
Hospice UK’s Just ‘B’ Counselling & Trauma helpline. The service is a free confidential national helpline available 7 days a week from 8am to 8pm on 0300 030 4434, providing bereavement, trauma and emotional support for all NHS, care sector staff and emergency service workers.
- Call the ‘Just B’ Counselling & Trauma helpline on 0300 030 4434
- Visit the Our Frontline site