From Soothing Lavender to Puppy Dog Tails, Revisiting Complementary Therapy

revisiting complementary therapy

From soothing lavender aromatherapy to a comforting touch to visits from licensed four-legged therapy friends, these types of complementary therapy allow hospice patients and families to get comfort outside the box of the traditional. In June, we first introduced you to complementary therapy in an overview that you can read here. In part II, we took a deeper dive into the topics of tai chi and yoga as forms of complementary therapy. Today we are revisiting complementary therapy in order to share some other options that can provide comfort and relaxation to hospice patients and their families.

Revisiting Complementary Therapy to Increase Comfort

In revisiting complementary therapy, there are some options that can assist patients, caregivers and families in reducing the stress and anxiety often associated with life-limiting illnesses and end-of-life care.

revisiting complementary therapy aromatherapyAromatherapy

Aromatherapy practice uses fragrant, essential oils to produce an individual therapeutic response. Benefits come from inhaling the essential oil scent. And depending on the essential oil, it can be applied directly on skin, diluted (for instance, with coconut oil) or full strength.

The following are some of benefits of aromatherapy:

  • Promotes relaxation
  • Reduces anxiety, stress and tension
  • Improves sleep and well-being

In the American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, University of Nevada researchers published the results of their study as to whether lavender aromatherapy positively affected hospice patients. They discovered a small but positive change in anxiety, depression and sense of well-being with aromatherapy.

comfort touch complementary therapyComfort Touch

The power of the human touch is well-known. Think back to your childhood when you fell on the playground and skinned your knee. Your parent was there to make sure you were okay with a gentle and reassuring touch. It was comforting to know they had your back.

As we age, the desire to seek comfort tends to intensify—especially for those who have life-limiting illnesses or battle pain. That’s where the complementary therapy known as Comfort Touch can help.

It is a form of acupressure that can relieve pain and promote relaxation. It is important to note that Comfort Touch is not massage but rather gentle and rhythmic pressure specifically used on hands and feet.

Pet Therapy

On any given day, community members who visit the hospice houses at Good Shepherd Hospice, HPH Hospice  and LifePath Hospice  probably meet a pet volunteer. Accompanied by their human parent, pet volunteers bring joy and peace to many patients at the houses, but also visit patients wherever they call home. Certified and trained animals visit patients and families to provide a different type of care.

Studies have demonstrated that pet therapy can provide immediate benefits, psychological and physiological, to hospice patients and seniors. One study in the Journal of Palliative Care showed that a miniature poodle, which became a resident at a hospice inpatient facility, improved morale and interactions between staff and patients.

Therapy animals, especially dogs, interact with patients and families to reduce the anxiety, depression and fatigue that often accompany chronic and advanced illnesses.

In order to visit patients and families, animals and their owners/handlers must undergo a screening and certification process. It is important to test animals’ temperaments in order to determine how well they will react with adults, children, loud noises, walkers and wheelchairs.

At Chapters Health System, every day is devoted to educating our patients and keeping them in the place they call home. We are dedicated to ensuring that patients, young and old alike, and their families are able to make educated decisions about important healthcare matters. For more information, please call our helpful Chapters Health team at 1.866.204.8611 or send an email to

About Phoebe Ochman

Phoebe Ochman, Director of Corporate Communications for Chapters Health System, manages all content and communications for the not-for-profit organization.

revisiting complementary therapy

Did You Know?

Here are 5 fun facts about aromatherapy:

  • Aromatherapy is not something new. We can trace its history back to Egypt in 3500 BC, when fragrant herbs were first used for religious rituals, in cosmetics and as medicine. From ancient Egypt, the popularity of aromatherapy expanded across the Mediterranean to Greece.
  • Hippocrates, known for the Hippocratic Oath, used essential oils to treat his patients.
  • Modern-day aromatherapy was an accidental discovery by chemist Rene Maurice Gattefossé in France sometime in the 1920s. He burned his hand, and the only available item to help treat was lavender. Surprisingly enough, his wound healed quickly.
  • It seems like an oxymoron, but essentials oils are NOT oils. Why aren’t they? In order to be classified as oil, a substance must contain fatty acids, which essential oils do not. Aromatherapy essentials oils are very concentrated plant extracts that enjoy qualities that are often described as medicinal.



  • Even though essential oils come in very tiny bottles, the amount of plant extract needed to make the oil is quite high. For instance, more than 150 pounds of lavender flowers are needed to make 16 ounces of lavender essential oil; and for 16 ounces of peppermint oil, 250 pounds of peppermint leaves are necessary.

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