Complementary Care Services Alternative Hospice’s Different Approach to Dying

By Deborah Gambill,

LMT/CYI/Reiki Practioner


In most indigenous cultures a death is considered no less important than a birth—acknowledging  the  mystery and beauty surrounding the  end of a life’s cycle…friends and family pause and bear witness to the final miracle as the soul moves forth.   Alternative Hospice comforts and supports their patients and  families through natural therapeutic tools provided through  Complementary Care Services.

Whether it is an aromatherapy/Bach Flower  spritz to relieve anxiety, Reiki  energetic movement to help calm a patient’s daughter who is sitting worried at bedside, releasing a contracted hand of a stroke patient with bodywork technique,  calmly handling post-traumatic trauma that suddenly appears in a dementia patient, collecting a snippet of a life story to better appreciate an alert patient’s feelings of grief and loss, or helping an actively dying patient to be comfortable with letting go…the licensed massage therapists at Alternative Hospice have had an active hand in the work in each scenario.

These specialized therapists are not working to remediate a patient.  They have a respectful understanding that their purpose is to assist in healing moments for patient and family–whatever is needed to provide dignity, comfort, and full expression around and during the end of this life. The mission statement at Alternative Hospice is “Teaching the Art of Living and Dying Well”.

Many of our patients, about 10%, “graduate” hospice and are no longer hospice appropriate due to the high quality of care.  Individual expression by each patient is encouraged and their “love” of chocolate bars, fear of baseball caps(post traumatic stress reaction), their adoration of the color PINK are all catered to by our staff—so a life is celebrated, individual differences noted and embellished, and care shown whether the time on hospice is long or short—so life is celebrated in the face of death!

The three therapists in the St. Louis metro area have taught philosophies and skills associated with natural healing arts with the community of caregivers involved with our patients including: our own doctors, nurses, social workers, chaplains, certified nurses assistants and administrators.  Information about these perspectives and therapies are also being shared with our volunteers, medical students from St. Louis University, facility staffs, and family caregivers.  Public speaking about our approach has been shared in many forums such as: Mo. In-Home Services Association, Mo. Nurses Association, Mo. Nursing Home Administrators Association, St. Louis Alzheimer’s Association, St. Louis Hospice Volunteers Association, and others…maybe yours soon?

As the year 2011 rapidly approaches, it is interesting to note that ancient natural healing tools are as applicable and as comforting as ever for the dying and for their family.  Kind hands, good intention, and tender acts by a loving presence still make all the difference.

This is one of a series of articles on Alternative Hospice to be featured in The Healthy Planet.

For more information, please visit our new website at www.alternativehospice.com  or call 636.343.3829.