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Natural Awakenings Naples and Fort Myers

Conventional Healthcare’s Nurturing Trends: Complementary Therapies Help Foster Well-Being

Apr 03, 2011 09:26PM ● By Lee Walker

The soothing and familiar spaces of our homes are places where we can leisurely engage in the mindful activities of music appreciation, meditation, journaling and personal art forms that help us to maintain mental, physical and spiritual health. Whenever a health crisis requires us or a loved one to be hospitalized, or spend time in an assisted living or other care facility, we are inclined to yearn for the familiar comforts that nurture us. In Southwest Florida, local healthcare facilities such as NCH Healthcare System and AVOW Hospice, as well as VI, at Bentley Village, have evolved to meet their patient and resident needs with complementary therapies that nurture well-being in body, mind and spirit.

NCH Healthcare System

NCH’s free Arts in Healing program, initiated in 2002, offers expressive art activities that are designed to promote relaxation, stimulate the senses, open up the mind, encourage socialization and self-expression and provide solace. Although visual arts are Beth Schroeder’s specialty, she also acts as the program’s public relations contact and volunteer coordinator, scheduling individuals who provide various therapies and help patients explore their therapeutic benefits.

Music is performed throughout the hospital by Arts in Healing volunteers such as Ray Griggs, who plays his original guitar compositions at the Naples campus, although individual sessions can be scheduled in a patient’s room, by request. Live music and a sing-a-long are also offered weekly by NCH volunteers and the Occupational Therapy staff. “Studies show that music has the ability to reduce the anxiety and pain that often accompanies a health crisis,” advises Schroeder.

Laughter/performance therapy includes “Clowns on Rounds,” who evoke smiles and laughter. Sometimes the best medicine, laughter is known to alter levels of neuro-chemicals and boost the immune system, as well as reduce muscle tension and improve respiration.

Visual arts focus on behavioral health through group activities that can include painting a “living canvas” that is on display in the virtual gallery at “This form of art journaling, which is accompanied by Griggs, is generally cathartic for patients, who are able to get in touch with their feelings and sometimes even write poetry,” remarks Schroeder.

Volunteers also schedule their Pet Partner dogs for sessions with patients, she says, noting, “Visits from therapy dogs often decrease blood pressure, relieve loneliness and depression, and are just plain fun.”

AVOW Hospice

Collier County’s nonprofit AVOW Hospice recognizes that each patient is an individual with a unique life narrative, who deserves a program of physical, emotional and spiritual support to bring their story to a graceful end. Such a level of personal attention is achieved in several ways. A DVD series, Comforts of the Journey, is available for patients and families cared for in the hospice house, at home or in the hospital or nursing home.

“Each DVD has a different focus,” explains Karla Mramor, manager of Complementary Therapies. One is geared to the patient and teaches relaxation, breathing and guided imagery, while another focuses on the caregiver and provides suggestions for how to create a more comforting environment and how to use the techniques of hand aromatherapy and self-massage. The third provides music and visual images, created especially to promote relaxation. Additionally, massage therapy and Reiki are available.

Vi at Bentley Village

Community & Public Relations Manager Marjorie Johnson reports that the latest trend on this campus of nearly 800 residents, which includes independent and assisted living and skilled-care living facilities, is the stream of new or future residents who are in tune with taking care of themselves. “These individuals are educated about healthy lifestyles via the Internet, and they expect to have access to complementary therapies,” says Johnson.

The Picasso Art Club, an affiliate of the Art from the Heart program, is comprised of local volunteers who help residents with dementia to tell their story with art. Several times each week, assisted-living residents and skilled-care patients enjoy special guests who play instruments, dance or provide karaoke. “Sometimes the residents play the instruments,” notes Johnson, who adds that Bentley partners with AVOW Hospice to provide massage therapy and aromatherapy for residents.

NCH Healthcare System, 350 7th St. N., Naples 34102. Call the NCH Arts in Healing program at 239-436-5200, ext. 2882.

AVOW Hospice, 1095 Whippoorwill Lane, Naples 34105. Call 239-261-4404 or visit

Vi at Bentley Village, 704 Village Circle, Naples 34110. Call Marjorie Johnson at 239-598-3153, ext. 140 or visit

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