The Institute for Palliative Medicine at San Diego Hospice

Integrative Palliative Care

Integrative Palliative Care at SDHIPM was formed in 1996.  It’s aim is to facilitate comfort care and to promote emotional and spiritual healing of the patient, family and caregivers.  Integrative Palliative Care provides diverse healing modalities based on the philosophy of caring for the whole person and incorporating concepts of the body/mind/spirit connection in order to improve quality of life.  Modalities that provide additional choices to standard medical practices allow for increased patient choices and autonomy and assist in bridging cultural and racial gaps that exist between patients and providers.  Most  Integrative Palliative Care at SDHIPM is provided in the Inpatient Care Center.

Summary of Integrative Palliative Therapies:


Reiki, Therapeutic Touch and Healing Touch were the first therapies offered.  These approaches are based on the premise that a person is an open energy system and illness is a reflection of an imbalance in an individual’s energy field.  The practitioner detects areas of imbalance and brings the field back into balance through a step-by-step process that promotes healing and/or comfort.


Aromatherapy is the use of odorous compounds such as essential oils, by inhalation, massage, compresses and baths to enhance the comfort of patient and family.  A certified aromatherapist is on staff at SDHIPM and directs the use of the oils.  Particularly successful in relieving agitation and anxiety are lavender hydrotherapy and baths.  Customized blends have been developed which have been helpful in different situations.

The blends are distributed through the pharmacy at SDHIPM at request of members of the home care team.  Four thousand blends were dispensed in 2008.


The harp has been a symbol and source of relief and comfort for thousand of years.  Harp music has been proposed to have several unique healing properties due to the nature of the instrument itself.  Harp therapy is based on the theory that each person has a resonant tone that is harmonious with his or her body.  The harp therapist works with nine essential elements of music and matches the music with the resonant tone of the person.  The harp therapy at SDHIPM is provided by graduates of the International Harp Therapy organization.


Making music appears to be one of the fundamental activities of humankind, as characteristically human as drawing and painting.  No culture so far discovered lacks music.  Music therapy in palliative care is the skillful use of music to address a range of multidimensional challenges faced by terminally ill patients and their families.  Any therapeutic task must concentrate on the restoration of hope, accommodating feelings of loss, isolation and abandonment, understanding suffering, forgiving others,  accepting dependency while remaining independent and making sense of dying.  Music therapy can be a powerful tool in this process of change.


Acupuncture, acupressure and massage are made available to patients, family members and staff since 1998 through a collaborative relationship with the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine.  Common reasons for treatment are pain, fear, anxiety , depression, dyspnea, nausea, vomiting and constipation.