Ten Reasons Guided Meditation Is a Best Practice for Hospice & Palliative Care

November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month. As it happens, I just led a retreat for the wonderful staff of Hospice of the Western Reserve a couple weeks ago. The setting was gorgeous, healing in its own right – Penitentiary Glen Reservation in Kirtland, Ohio.

I was asked to speak by Stephen Adams, a gifted, gentle pastor and Reiki practitioner I've known for years. He wanted to make sure everyone knew about the healing power of guided imagery for their patients and families, and also for themselves. The work these professional caregivers do can be incredibly gratifying and uplifting, but it's difficult, too, because, of course, they carry around a lot of their own accrued grief and loss.


2135bWe had a wonderful afternoon. Stephen wanted me to play guided imagery samples, not just talk about guided meditation in an abstract way. So, I slathered them in guided imagery, introducing imagery for easing stress, grief and of course, peaceful dying.

I also went over the research showing how impactful this simple, user-friendly, mind-body tool is for alleviating pain, grief and depression and improving quality of life.

I closed the afternoon with ten reasons why guided imagery is a best practice and treatment of choice for hospice & palliative care. Here they are:

  • Imagery elevates serotonin levels and thus serves as a natural pain reducer. Because of this, it can reduce the need for analgesic medication and allow patients to be more alert and awake – often their preference.

  • Imagery mitigates anxiety, agitation, fear and distress, and provides peace and comfort.

  • Of all the senses, imagery only requires the ability to hear. Hearing is frequently available to a hospice patient, even after other senses have waned.

  • Guided meditation requires no work or effort on the listener's part - even very fatigued, passive, half-asleep or dispirited patients can use it, because all that is required is listening (or even half-listening).

  • 2113bIt employs the altered state that many dying patients naturally drift in and out of anyway, during the course of a day, making them highly receptive.

  • It allows people access to their own noetic experience, offering an inner gateway to a spiritual connection, whether they are religious or not. As such, it becomes a sort of "equal opportunity" form of prayer – spiritual nourishment for the non-religious.

  • Guided imagery works especially well when combined with touch, gentle massage, reflexology, energy work, (Therapeutic Touch, Reiki or Healing Touch), acupuncture or other forms of body work, commonly used in palliative care.

  • It can provide a nimble platform for releasing old hurts, guilts, resentments; for forgiving self or others; and even for asking forgiveness of others. People can come to resolution around conflicted relationships, even when the other person is not physically present.

  • It affords an opportunity to "practice dying".

  • It is something a couple or family can all listen to together, providing comfort and connection for patient and family members, especially when talking is too fraught, uncomfortable or difficult.

So if you haven't considered this wonderful tool, to help someone involved in one way or the other with hospice & palliative care, please do. They'll be grateful.

Take care and be well.

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