Creating a Healing Environment - Suggestions for Home Care

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By: Kelly Sutton, M.D. and Thomas Cowan, M.D
Illness brings up in everyone a feeling of vulnerability. We lose strength and may lose control of many of our bodily functions. Ques­tions come up: "What will help me over­come this?" and if it lasts long enough or is serious enough, we begin to ask, "Why me?" "Why now?" and "Why this particular illness?"

This article deals with some practi­cal answers to the first few questions, and acknowledges that beyond the practical things a sense of mystery exists around illness. We can't answer the why ques­tions easily. We know from experience the impact illness has on our lives. Often, after an illness, a child will take a devel­opmental step forward. An executive with a heart attack may question his priorities and then change his life-style. As Bernie Siegel says, a cancer patient is given "a wake-up call" and there is a chance to look at the issues and the priorities in her/ his life.

So illness is a means for transforma­tion. When creating a healing environ­ment in the home, we want to make space for both the practical and the mysterious to work themselves out.

Looking at the Individual
The first step for the caregiver is to take a good look at the sick individual. A calm, receptive emotional tone will create the right environment for the sick person to express the needs they have. Some­times sickness brings over-sensitivity and a demanding mood. The caregiver should try to recognize this as part of the illness and not take it personally. Quiet talk with a child suffering from chicken pox, re­calling our own chicken pox miseries, lets the sick one hear someone else's struggle put into words. The child will feel relief at being understood. When the caregiver respects the sick person's dignity and has faith in the recovery, then the caregiver becomes like a medicine to the patient. For example, a sick child doesn't care about remedies, but just wants the pres­ence of the loving parent. As the process unfolds, the sick person's sense of self changes from vulnerability to a new inde­pendence.

A quiet environment contributes to healing, and so TV and technically pro­duced sounds have little place in creating a healing environment. Sleep should be protected - even the administering of remedies should be avoided if the patient is in a sound sleep. All the recommenda­tions here and which follow need to individualized for the person who is sick. But remember, this discussion should be treated as a source of questions to be asked rather than pre-determined answers. The answer is in the patient.

Change: Order and Rhythm . . . Fresh, Inside and Out
Order and rhythm go hand-in-hand. While we do not have the controlled professional technique of experienced nurses, we can take a deep breath, get still for a moment and think, "What do I need to carry this out?"

The body follows precise and timely rhythms in secreting hormones and en­zymes in synchronicity with the changing time of day or year around us. When our treatments are given with regularity (though not necessarily so frequently we can't humanly keep up with the sched­ule). The body gains support and security from the meal, or remedy, or treatment far more than if it were given irregularly.

For growing children, rhythm in life provides a strong foundation in their physiology, so that later as adults when schedules are erratic, the body function is secure from years of rhythmic living. For the sick person, use of rhythm is a return to that healthful time of childhood, and brings health more quickly to the sufferer.

Internal Cleansing is Fundamental to Healing
The physical effect of an illness is to bring about a body cleansing, and if we co-operate with that effort, the body can finish its work quickly and effectively. At the onset of illness, inflammation or fe­ver, a sick person should be helped to empty the bowels thoroughly first with an enema if one is comfortable with this, or with a Dulcolax (bisacodyl) suppository (the adult size can be used from age one year old/on). The bowel cleansing should be continued for several days by followed by milk of magnesia, Smoothe Move tea, Laxadoron tablets (Weleda), prunes, or whatever works for that person in order to have one more than the usual number of bowel movements per day.

Horsetail tea (1 tsp. per cup of water, boiled 3 minutes) helps flush the kidneys which are responsible for eliminating toxins from our bodies. Hot lemonade (honey, fresh lemon and hot water), miso soup, vegetable broth (no MSG please), and herb teas can be drunk, warm to hot, in large quantities (up to 2 gallons per day). Urinary output is an important mea­sure of hydration, and when a person has no urine output for 12 hours, or signifi­cantly diminished urine output in the presence of fever, it is imperative that the doctor be notified quickly.

Fluids carry healing properties whether as plain water, or as a carrier for an herb or oil. A warm mist vaporizer with eucalyptus oil assists relief of con­gestion in almost all respiratory condi­tions. Inhalation (with chamomile, or chamomile and eucalyptus) bring a con­centrated humidity for quick relief of mucus and soothing of irritated passage­ways. Occasionally, asthma gets worse with concentrated humidity or odors, and with asthma it is important to use caution.

Warmth, is of such prime impor­tance in healing it stands alone. Lack of warmth underlies chronic illness more often than we realize. The addition of warmth maintains health in a well per­son, and supports healing in a sick one.

Warmth exists on many levels. Emotional warmth is the foundation of children's total growth, and though not quite as critical in adult survival, is essen­tial for adult well-being. Sincere interest in the sick person, willingness to listen and grow in understanding of her/his particular situation and make-up, are the caregiver's gifts of warmth to the patient. They may be delivered with objectivity, as by a health professional, or with great attachment, as by a parent. But in either case, the support of companionship and human warmth during illness promotes healing.

The body creates physical warmth in the form of fever in an effort to rouse the immune system to action and bring the illness process to completion. The pres­ence of fever is the signal of a competent immune system, and action of the orga­nizing forces of the sick person trying to take charge in the illness situation. Fever has been known to cure illnesses: includ­ing some cancers, and currently research is based on these observations.

From the Home Care Course given by Kelly Sutton, M.D. and Thomas Cowan, M.D. Drs. Sutton and Cowan are in practice at the Aurum Center for Healing in Peterborough, N.H.


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