Natural care and comfort for your family

L-R, Julie Martin Palliative Arts Clinician and Dr. Barbara Dobron Integrative Medicine clinician at Empath Health


BY LASHANTE KEYS, Empath Health Community Partnership Specialist

You hope and pray for good health for your family. If they become impacted by a severe illness, there is specialized care that you may not know can improve their comfort and well-being.

LaShante Keys

LaShante Keys

Integrative medicine and palliative arts

Sept. is National Pain Awareness Month. We want to shine a light on integrative medicine and palliative arts, which are combined with traditional medical treatment to help relieve pain, symptoms and suffering of patients and others served by Suncoast Hospice and Empath Health.

Integrative medicine includes acupuncture, breathing techniques or other practices. Palliative arts include recorded or live music (including for patients with Alzheimer’s), aromatherapy, energy work (Reiki), pet visits and massage therapy. These methods are found to decrease pain, nausea, anxiety, agitation and other stress and discomfort of patients. It can also ease the minds of family members knowing that their loved ones are being comforted.

“Palliative arts address the body, mind and spirit,” explained Julie Martin, palliative arts clinician at Empath Health. Martin is a board-certified music therapist who oversees the first-of-its-kind Suncoast Hospice Integrative Medicine and Palliative Arts program. She also trains staff and volunteers as well as educates the community in music and aromatherapy.

Volunteers provide palliative arts at the three Suncoast Hospice Care Centers, nursing and residential facilities or patients’ homes. The Suncoast Hospice Integrative Medicine Clinic includes acupuncture provided by Dr. Barbara Dobron, an expert acupuncture physician and ARNP (advanced registered nurse practitioner), and palliative arts (aromatherapy, recorded music and energy work) provided by Martin and volunteers. Patients choose what they wish to receive and are monitored for comfort levels during treatment or service.

Martin has seen and heard many positive results from patients treated at the clinic. With the Chinese technique of acupuncture, a practitioner inserts tiny needles in a person’s skin to relax muscles and bring comfort.

“We had a patient who said that acupuncture was one of the best treatments that helped with his pain and other symptoms,” she said.


Many patients and families have benefited from palliative arts. Music can make a calming connection.

“Music is a natural part of being human. Many cultures have a rich history of music through churches or communities. Music is a natural way to support pain management because it is familiar and helps to refocus attention away from the pain. If people are actively singing, then they are breathing more deeply, which helps to relax the body and support the release of pain. Some people respond very well to music that is slow in tempo, mild in melody and predictable. It depends on each person,” Martin noted.


Aromatherapy can create a soothing environment.

“I recently spoke about aromatherapy with a local church group. Most people knew about it or used it in their lives for enhanced well-being and quality of life. Some companies provide essential oils that are specific to pain, relaxation and anxiety, but they can be costly. If you can’t afford essential oils, be aware of the comforting scents in your environment. If your grandmother is in pain and she grew roses in her yard, you could place a loosely-woven bag of crushed rose petals on her pillow to fill the air with the aroma,” she said.

Energy work

Energy work can generate a peaceful presence. With the Japanese technique of Reiki, a practitioner gently touches or places his or her hands over a person’s body and sends positive energy and prayers.

“We have energy about us through nature, prayer and intention. Just being present with a loving intention can have a deeper meaning for a family member who is experiencing pain, whether physical, emotional or spiritual pain. A volunteer in our clinic once said that Reiki practitioners become a clear channel for the energy of love and God to affect people in a positive way,” she added.


Children can also participate in palliative arts.

“Oftentimes we find that children are more open to trying palliative arts. They can be the recipients or the givers. You can show a child how to touch someone who is in pain gently. And think about the meaning a child can have singing a song to a grandparent, parent or sibling. If children are willing to help, I would say give them the opportunity to try,” she said.

Visit Suncoast Hospice to learn more about their services and volunteer opportunities.

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