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Natural Healing in


Unnatural Settings Homelike Touches Help Restore Health by Melinda Hemmelgarn


O


h, how we take the comforts of home for granted—until we lose them. Despite our


best intentions and mindful actions to stay physically and spiritually sound, sometimes, bad things happen to good people. Accidents, toxic environments, illness and other situations beyond our control can radically, often unexpect- edly, change our lives.


No one wants to find themselves in a hospital bed, but if you or a loved one requires the high-tech, life-saving skills of a medical center, nursing home or another institutionalized care facility, you can help restore health through high-touch, natural nurturing. To begin, it’s helpful to know that


healing is enhanced and quality of life returns quicker in loving, peaceful, natural environments. Frances Kuo and her colleagues at the Landscape and Human Health Laboratory, at the Uni- versity of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, have shown how green space is a nec- essary, beneficial component of human health.


Because plant life is physically and mentally restorative, an increasing number of hospitals nationwide have created onsite “healing gardens.” The University of Alabama Hospital, for instance, designed a garden according to the concept that the way a patient feels and interacts with his or her sur- roundings can play an integral part in


the healing process. Complementing its soothing greenery and pleasant floral scents, a water feature helps mask un- pleasant noise.


It’s good to bring green plants, fragrant flowers and herbs to the bed- side of a loved one, but intensive care units often ban plants in rooms, due to concerns about mold, allergens and bacteria, so check with nursing staff first. If an institution restricts the pres- ence of plants, substitute posters or pictures of gardens, forests or national parks to bring visions of natural life to barren walls.


Here are additional suggestions for transforming unnatural environments into more natural healing spaces:


Like Hippocrates, think of food as medicine. Unfortunately, “healthy hos- pital food,” is too often an oxymoron. It’s wise to ask the staff dietitian for an organic diet. Organic food is produced without toxic chemicals, antibiotics, hormones and genetically modified ingredients. If no organic options exist, let hospital administrators know you would appreciate having local, or- ganic food on the menu. Inquire about dietary restrictions and get approval to bring nutritious, homemade comfort foods, prepared with loving hearts and caring hands.


Satisfy the senses. Listen to the heal- ing rhythms of nature via recordings of songbirds, crickets, frogs, ocean surf, trickling streams and gentle rain. Many are available through libraries, local bookstores and websites.


Paul Kervick, cofounder and one of the directors at Living Well Community Care Home, in Bristol, Vermont, be- lieves, “It takes more than medical man- agement and clean sheets to feel vibrant and happy.” So, in addition to organic food, Kervick provides music therapy and meditative drumming for residents.


Heal through touch and movement. Medical facilities may employ profes- sional massage, healing touch and physical therapists. If not, a gentle foot or hand massage, with jasmine, rose or lavender-scented lotion, provides sooth- ing stress relief. Be close; hold your loved one’s hand or stroke their hair.


natural awakenings December 2013 37


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