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The many benefits of supportive reflexology using the FRT Approach ‘a privileged role’.

I think it will be helpful to begin by setting the scene. One evening a month since 2010 I’ve had the privilege of delivering reflexology sessions to seven adults at a residential home which, supports individuals with a variety of difficulties and additional health needs.

All residents are encouraged to be as independent as possible, they each have their own flat, keyworker and require very different levels of support from staff to meet their needs. Their daily timetables offer a variety of activities from a paid job for one young man to voluntary work for another. Shopping and cooking for others, visits to support centres and clubs all bring continued learning and fun qualities into their lives.   

I have to say I really look forward to the evening. The welcome I receive from residents ranges from being spotted as I drive into the carpark, waved to from the window, being greeted at the door to be helped in with my equipment, (so I always make sure I have atleast two extra small bags with towels light and handy to be carried for me); to one young man who moves the furniture in his flat to make space for the pedistool and always washes his feet so he is never first on the list as it takes him at least 30 minutes once I arrive to prepare himself. The welcome I receive from staff is just as heart-warming. I’ve been told it’s the most calming evening of the month and how much the staff look forward to my visit almost as much as the residents which is certainly saying something! 

As practitioners we often ask ourselves how do we collect useful evidence? 

cuddly toyOne of my clients is a 66 year old lady, very quiet and very anxious; with Down Syndrome and Intellectual Disabilities. She now requires 1:1 support for all her activities and her personal care. The many photos around her flat give me a tiny glimpse into her happy life growing up with her family and dogs. Her love of knick knacks on the shelves from her holidays and visits show me how she used to get pleasure from collecting.

When I began working with her she would point out people in the photographs, especially ones with her in them with her mum and dad and talk about some of her ornaments particularly her love of animals.

During the last couple of years, I have witnessed many changes to her health the most devastating being diagnosed with the onset of Dementia. She has recently lost the ability to walk and now has very little speech.

I was asked if I could visit on a weekly basis for this client as she has very little activity in her life now and the staff could see the enjoyment and benefits for her receiving the positive touch of reflexology.

When I arrived this week my client was in bed, although I could see she was positioned comfortably and was warm she was awake, but not relaxed infact I would say a little distressed. Staff didn’t think she was in any pain they didn’t know why she seemed so anxious but she often is.

As her awareness and understanding of things around her become confused and she is unsure about things perhaps this could be why she is anxious. The world around becomes quite scary! She presented with quite shallow breathing and facial gestures pursing her lips, eyes quite wide looking around, along with tightly holding the duvet with both hands, I’m sure her fingers must have been aching her fists were certainly clenched.

During our time working together we have developed a lovely structure with a routine which usually helps my client to prepare as best possible for the session, from playing the music she recognises to looking at the large smiley face symbols that live in the FRT tool kit (developed in 2012). I popped the music on and under her pillow to softly play close to her ear with the immediate response “aaah music”. I continued to selectively chat away as I worked through our preparations, one so that she could listen to my voice which, I was hoping she would recognise and it would reassure her for our session, two because it’s important to communicate as best possible. I showed her our usual ‘tool kit’ she may recognise the colour and the smiley face symbol and for those clients with dementia you never quite know when, what and how much they are understanding. In my mind it’s important to presume they are listening and understanding and talk clearly as usual. But not to overload with too much information as communication does need to be effective. The moment is so important.

With preparations complete along with moving her lovely cuddly dog from the dressing table to her lap, she briefly focussed on him, unclenched her fists and straightened the bow around his neck her hands then held on tight to his soft body. I began the session.

During the first ten minutes of the session with coverage and gentle strokes over her feet and lower legs, I observed how her breaths deepened and her uptight position generally softened. Within fifteen minutes she spoke the word dog and mentioned the word brother not by name but just with what looked like a little smile. Within twenty minutes I watched as her eyes blinked quite a bit she took a lovely deep breath and began to doze. When the house manager popped in she was so pleased to see how comfortable and relaxed my client was.

When I mentioned the few words that had been spoken the manager said that was so lovely. She asked me if I thought the Reflexology was helping her to remember a few things?

My answer was along the lines of the intention of the session I am providing, is to help my client to be comfortable and as relaxed as possible if she relaxes and we can reduce some of her anxiety I would like to think it will help her to be in a better state of mind ‘in the moment’. Which may account for the words and her desire to communicate.

After thirty minutes, I finished the session and replaced the sponge foot supports (which take a little pressure from my clients heels if she spends a long time in bed). She awoke and I showed her the pot and asked if I could put some cream on her hands and arms. She didn’t speak but slightly lifted one hand up which was my cue to get on with it! Gentle relaxation reflexology lots of repetitions of a smaller number of techniques focussing very much on the few techniques that I know my client seems to enjoy.

Completion of the session is a few notes of reflection in my folder, thoughts for the next session and comments in the clients care plan folder, which remains at the home. Notes do not need to be in great length but how reassuring is it to be asked as a Reflexologist to contribute and provide some details for the many benefits of the session for the client.

Then placing my hand on her shoulder, I said thank you and good bye and I look forward to my next visit.

I have taken a little time to work with the care staff who now feel comfortable to provide a little positive touch sessions for my client which is lovely for her and a lovely support for me.

You may find the following links useful:

https://www.mencap.org.uk/learning-disability-explained/conditions/downs-syndrome?gclid=CLWB77_ZkdMCFegW0wodVqcA2w

https://www.dementiauk.org

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