Human beings must have contact with other humans.

Human beings must have contact with other humans.
“Without touch, we die,” said Mia Barnett Elmsater.
A former area resident now living in northern Sweden, near the Arctic Circle, she conducted a two-hour training session in therapeutic touch Wednesday for Community Hospices of America staff.
Elmsater is an instructor/trainer with the International Association of Infant Massage, but on her own has developed programs for child, geriatric and hospice massage, as well as tactile stimulation for children and adults with special needs.
“People ask if I’m worried someone will steal my ideas,” she said. “Go ahead, steal — just make it better.”
Originally from Baxter Springs, she has lived in Sweden the past 32 years.
“I married a Swede, and just stayed there,” she said. “I came back every summer so my boys could know their grandparents.”
She is the daughter of the late Cass Barnett, who had worked in Pittsburg State University campus area housing. Barnett died in April after a long battle with cancer.
“My mother was cared for by Community Hospices of America during the last week and a half of her life,” Elmsater said.
“This is the first time I’ve worked with hospice in the United States, and it’s so exciting to be able to work with the people who helped my mother.”
Therapeutic touch is used at hospices in Europe and other parts of the United States, and has been documented to reduce the need for pain and anxiety medications.
Elmsater said she became involved with therapeutic touch after the birth of a son with Down syndrome.
“He was in the incubator and he looked very blue, but when I massaged him, he’d turn pink,” Elmsater said. “I decided this was what I wanted to do.”
She has worked with those across the spectrum of human life.
“I’ve even been able to massage babies with brittle bones, because I only touch the skin,” Elmsater said.
She urged hospice staff to use similar gentleness with their patients.
“How hard can we touch? How long can we touch?” she asked. “You must first ask permission, because this is their body. Often, things are being done with their body that they can’t control. Asking permission shows respect and allows them some control. If a patient says no, that must be respected.”
Elmsater demonstrated doing hand rubs and foot rubs, using a soothing lotion.
“If you smoke, wash your hands before you give a massage,” she advised. “Also, take off rings and other jewelry, because these people often bruise easily. Be careful with those who are ticklish, especially on the feet. Ask the patient if the touch is too soft or too hard. Watch the body reaction — does the patient look away or tense up?”
Elmsater said the person giving the massage doesn’t have to say much to the recipient, and definitely should not be talking to anybody else.
“You need to do the massage with the person, not to the person,” she said.
Massages to the feet, back and stomach can be done over the clothing, without touching the skin.
“You can give a perfectly good foot massage with a sock,” Elmsater said.
She is now involved with the Massage in Schools program, and will be visiting 20 states in October to see about starting massage programs there.
“This is an anti-bullying program,” Elmsater said. “The kids give each other massages, and how can you beat up or shoot somebody that you’ve given a massage to? We’ve done this in 19 countries, and the United States is next.”
In 2000 she took the program to the “worst of the worst” school in London.
“The principal gave us six weeks because he didn’t see how we could make the situation any worse,” Elmsater said. “In four weeks, the students had calmed down, and the teachers said they were actually able to stand up and teach.”
She’s very aware of issues regarding what she calls “scary” touch.
“Children must know about improper touch, how to protect themselves and how to report it to an adult if it occurs,” Elmsater said. “But we need to bring proper touch up, too.”
Melissa Gulick, RN, CHA patient care supervisor, said she believes therapeutic touch will be an excellent option for the staff to bring to their patients.
“It’s also something families can learn to do,” Gulick added. “We often hear family members say they’re afraid to touch the patient because he or she is so frail, and this is another way that families can be there for their loved ones.”