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Sharing gift of touch with the terminally ill

That safe, healthy touch is what massage therapist RoxAnn Lindquist plans to share with hospice patients.

"At 19, I knew I would be a part of Hospice, I just thought it would be as an LPN, not a massage therapist," she said.

Not new to hospice, but new to Detroit Lakes' Hospice of the Red River Valley, RoxAnn Lindquist is the first massage therapist to volunteer her time to help relieve stress and make patients more comfortable in their last days. She's hoping other therapists will follow suit.

Lindquist, who also works three days a week at the Detroit Lakes Community and Cultural Center, worked as a Licensed Practical Nurse for seven years after college. She then served as a stay-at-home-mom for around 20 years before deciding to join the workforce again.

Not sure nursing was the path to head back to, she chose to attend Sister Rosalind Gefre Schools and Clinics of Massage in Fargo.

"I hadn't experienced a (professional) massage until I was 40," she said. That sold her on massages.

Although Minnesota has no regulations on licensing, she did get licensed through North Dakota and nationally certified.

"I wanted to give it the whole credential thing," she said.

In her practices, Lindquist has learned about massage benefits to the elderly, those with Alzheimer's and those at the end of life. She says it's all about the power of touch.

"It's the safe touch, human touch," she said. "There is no one (touching) in our society because people are so afraid of getting sued."

She said there is the therapeutic aspect, but there is also "staying connected" to the human side of a person as well.

"I can tell if someone is present. I can tell if they're making a grocery list or right there connecting with that person," she said.

"Just being there for this person. It goes beyond the stress reducer."

Lindquist said while she can work on whatever area the patient needs to be more comfortable --"you adjust to them" -- she will mainly work on feet, head and hands of the hospice patients. With many of a person's nerve endings at those roots, she will be able to relieve a lot of stress and discomfort from those three areas.

And while helping the patient relax, she said it's not a problem to help the family as well, with a little tension relief with maybe a shoulder rub.

She will also teach family members how to massage their loved one's feet or hands for when she's unavailable.

Hospice Volunteer Coordinator Terri Ulrich said she already has a waiting list for when Lindquist begins her massage with hospice. Lindquist has to go through paperwork for hospice.

"I think it could really catch on. It's so relevant," Ulrich said of the massage opportunity.

Other therapists interested in volunteering with Hospice of the Red River Valley can call Terri Ulrich at 847-9493.