Palliative Care at Home: The Touch, Caring and Cancer Program

The COVID-19 crisis has led to a dramatic reduction in access to outpatient services. People most in need of palliative care are also at greatest risk of infection and death, and therefore must take the most extreme measures of isolation to reduce any risk of exposure. Providing palliative care at home is optimal in these situations.

Fortunately, staying home need not mean the cessation of palliative care support. There is a great deal family members and other informal caregivers can do to provide palliative care at home for loved ones unable to access outpatient services. With the help of telemedicine caregivers can receive guidance from their palliative care teams on day-to-day symptom and medication management strategies. Beyond that, there is a specific form of supportive care ideally suited for delivery by caregivers.

Touch and massage are among the most popular and helpful forms of palliative care, and this support can continue at home. Touch, Caring and Cancer, now available as a free course on the Integrative Palliative Care Institute (IPCI) website, gives family caregivers clear instruction in safe and simple use of touch and massage techniques for comfort and relaxation of a loved one.

In research sponsored by the National Cancer Institute, caregivers using the instruction had improved satisfaction and confidence in caregiving, while patients had reductions in pain, stress/anxiety, fatigue, depression, and nausea comparable to those achieved by professional massage therapists. The focus on comfort and relaxation makes the program generalizable to patients with other conditions as well.

This new IPCI course consists of 78 minutes of video instruction in ten brief lessons, with a downloadable manual (PDF). To reach underserved populations, the course is available in several language versions: English, Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, and Vietnamese. To access the course visit course offerings on the IPCI site.

To learn more about the program, watch this 6-minute preview:

Integrative Palliative Care Institute is dedicated to providing evidence-based resources on integrative palliative care for health professionals, organizations, patients and families.