Suncoast Hospice Expands Healing Oasis Program

Florida-based Suncoast Hospice is expanding its Healing Oasis program, which offers reiki as a complementary therapy to patients’ families and the bereaved. Suncoast Hospice is a member of Empath Health, a nonprofit integrated network of care supporting patients and families challenged by chronic and advanced illness in the Tampa Bay region.

The Healing Oasis program is open to the community at large whether or not the bereaved families’ loved ones were Suncoast patients.

Programs such as reiki, pet/animal therapy, acupuncture, massage, aromatherapy, meditation, art, music, and other complementary therapies are drawing increased patient and family attention nationwide, leading more hospices to offer these types of services.

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In one study, 29% of hospices (169 out of 591) reported employing an art, massage, or music therapist. Of those hospices, 74% employed a massage therapist, 53% a music therapist, and 22% an art therapist, and 42% included these therapists in interdisciplinary staff meetings.

Suncoast launched its Healing Oasis program at one of the company’s Community Service Centers and recently expanded to a second location. A third location is expected to begin offering the program in 2020. 

“The Healing Oasis is an avenue to provide reiki to people who have experienced a death in their family or someone they are close to. It grew from a vision of seeing there were some people in our community who could benefit from these services that weren’t getting that opportunity,” Melissa More, director of volunteer services for Suncoast Hospice, told Hospice News. “The Healing Oasis program is free for participants. We provide it through volunteers who are trained and organized through our Volunteer Services Department.”

Reiki is an alternative healing modality rooted in Eastern medicine that was developed in Japan during the early decades of the 20th century. Scientific evidence supporting the effectiveness of reiki is scarce, but many recipients anecdotally report reductions in symptoms such as pain and anxiety.

Suncoast has surveyed patients before and after receiving reiki and other complementary therapies, asking them to rate their symptoms on a scale of zero-to-10. Overall, their respondents report improvement in their symptoms.

In a 2017 study of 1,321 hospice patients in the United Kingdom, patients reported significant improvement in symptoms such as pain, shortness of breath, anxiety and nausea after receiving complementary therapies. Patients did not report improvement in relation to their constipation, fatigue, insomnia or appetites.

The Healing Oasis reiki program at Suncoast is a component of a larger palliative arts program that includes a range of services such as acupuncture, aromatherapy and music therapy.

“We have a very robust palliative arts program under which there are several important initiatives. You never know what that tools or services will really benefit a person. This is one way that we differentiate ourselves from other health care providers in the community,”More told Hospice News. “Hospice is really open to utilizing complementary therapies and palliative arts. We understand the mind-body-spirit connection, and that it sometimes takes different tools to help people through the challenges they are facing. It really works well with our mission of meeting people where they are and helping them in their journey.”

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