Over the years we have been asked many questions about the Hand to Heart Project program. Here you will find answers to the most frequently asked questions.
Do referrals to the program need to come from a medical provider?
No. We do receive referrals from medical providers, but we also take referrals from individuals in the community. We get self-referrals as well as referrals from friends, family members, neighbors or other acquaintances who know someone who has cancer or a caregiver who could benefit from our service.
Are you funded by or affiliated with any medical providers or institutions?
No. We are an independent nonprofit program and we do our own fundraising. We appreciated the support we get from hospitals, visiting nurse agencies, hospice providers and other medical sources, and we work to have strong relationships with these medical providers so that they feel comfortable making referrals to us. But we get no funds from these referral sources. Our service is free for them and free for their patients.
Can someone be either too sick or not sick enough to qualify for Hand to Heart?
No in both cases. We work with people of all ages with all stages and types of cancer, from the time of diagnosis – when someone might not look or even feel sick – to the last hours of life, when the client might not be awake anymore. We sometimes work with people for a few sessions during or just after treatment, and at other times we work with people for much longer. Cancer is unpredictable, and we will be there for the short term or the long term.
What are the benefits of massage for Hand to Heart clients and caregivers?
Most people can understand the potential for massage to help with physical pain, and there can be a lot of that with cancer and cancer treatment. But a life-threatening or potentially life-threatening illness is much more than a physical challenge, and we see The Hand to Heart Project as also helping with the emotional and spiritual challenges of that kind of crisis – for the patients and their caregivers. People have often told us that one important benefit of our program is having a compassionate, understanding person to talk with about what is happening.
Are your massage therapists volunteers?
No. Our massage therapists, now numbering more than a dozen, are paid professionals. Many of them have their own private practices outside of the program. We pay them because we want to ensure the most dependable and best possible care for our clients. The donations and grants that we receive support the massage sessions that we provide for free to clients.
How is your program funded?
We are funded entirely through donations from individuals and foundations, and from occasional fund-raising events. We do not ask clients to pay for the service, although sometimes they choose to donate in appreciation. We are also grateful when clients or families make Hand to Heart the recipient of memorial donations.
Where do donations go?
The majority of funds go to paying the massage therapists to provide free, in-home massage to clients and caregivers. But just as a for-profit business has costs associated with staying open, we do, too: administrative expenses such as salaries for two part-time employees, insurance, basic office supplies, etc.
Is massage really safe for people with cancer?
Yes. Years ago, people worried that massage might somehow spread cancer cells throughout the body. Today, medical centers throughout the country have oncology massage services available, and many of our referrals come from Dartmouth-Hitchcock or other medical institutions or agencies. However, the massage should be tailored to what is appropriate for particular clients on the specific days we see them. And some things are, so to speak, simply off the table. You should not, for instance, expect a deep-tissue massage from Hand to Heart.
Can I stay clothed for the massage?
Yes. Some clients get partly undressed and receive the massage on a massage table under a sheet. Others keep clothing on and receive the massage on the table or in a chair or bed. For many of our clients, getting undressed or onto the table is just too difficult. We can work with pretty much any situation.
Does the massage have to take place in my home?
The short answer is yes. In-home massage is what we do. In very limited circumstances – for instance, if the home environment would not be a safe place for the massage to happen – we can see someone in a private massage office. But since not all of our massage therapists have private offices, that isn’t always possible.
How do people sign up?
Many of our clients come to us via referral from a medical practitioner who, with patient permission, passes along contact information. But anyone can self-refer or contact us about a family member or friend who has cancer. Phone (603-542-8367) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) work well. Or use the contact form on the website, or message us on Facebook. There is a brief telephone intake process, after which a massage therapist will get the assignment and contact the client to schedule.