Tai chi is a slow moving meditative exercise
that has health benefits:
- Increased relaxation
- Decreased anxiety
- Decreased pain
- Increased strength
- Improved breathing
- Increased ability to focus
- Increased flexibility
- Improved balance
These benefits will enhance the
quality of life not only of hospice patients,
but also of their family members, hospice personnel,
and bereaved loved ones.
Tai chi for hospice patients:
- It is ideally introduced to patients while
they are still ambulatory, but it can be introduced
(with modifications) anywhere along the hospice
- Tai chi can be done standing, sitting, or
- Tai chi helps with anxiety and pain.
- Tai chi helps to maintain function longer.
- Tai chi is something to do that is beneficial.
- Tai chi can be done with the rest of the family.
Tai chi for family members:
- Tai chi relieves some of the stress of care
- It is an activity that can be done with
loved one on hospice service; may be done
standing along with the loved one who is doing
the exercises in bed or in a chair.
- Tai chi is a way to exercise using little
space and no special equipment.
- It increases energy.
- Tai chi has been shown to increase activity
of the immune system and may help to prevent
Tai chi for hospice personnel:
- Abdominal breathing between patients helps
to relieve stress and re-energize you.
- Tai chi at the beginning and/or the end
of the work day helps to bring you to a place
of focused calm.
- Tai chi in association with team meetings
focuses and calms team members, setting the
stage for a productive meeting that encourages
coherence among team members.
Tai chi in bereavement:
- Begin and/or end bereavement support group
meetings with tai chi to enhance energy and
- Encourage people in bereavement to practice
tai chi at home on a regular basis. This establishes
a sense of order in their lives while introducing
an exercise that enhances health while decreasing
- Encourages positive connections with other
Benefit to the hospice:
- It will improve the coping skills of patients
and their family members.
- Tai chi will help with pain and anxiety
in patients and their family members.
- When patients and family members know tai
chi and abdominal breathing, they will sometimes
be able to de-escalate an anxiety crisis on
- Urgent phone calls and home visits may well
- It will help with anxiety in hospice personnel
and may well help with retention and illness
- Devote an hour or two for an introduction
to tai chi for the hospice team.
- Obtain two or three copies of Dr. Paul Lam’s
tai chi videos for check-out.
- Introduce a new move or concept at the weekly
team meetings or do it once or twice a month.
- Use tai chi instructor volunteers to teach
patients and staff. Have a certified tai chi
instructor as team leader so that there is
consistency in the teaching.
Suggested exercises: For more detailed information
about these exercises, please go to Dr. Lam’s
Tai chi is always done with abdominal breathing.
With the attention focused on the dan-tien (3
fingerbreadths below the belly button), the
lower abdomen is inflated during inhalation
and deflated during exhalation. This type of
breathing ensures that a deep breath is taken
and that focus is on the breath, not on concerns
running through the mind.
In the ambulatory setting, the warm-ups can
be used to introduce the tai chi principles
of continuous flow, moving against gentle resistance,
awareness of weight distribution, and use of
abdominal breathing. These warm-ups can be modified
for use in a chair or even in a bed.
Tai chi walking:
Ambulatory patients will appreciate the slow
tai chi walking where they are walking quite
slowly focusing only on an upright posture and
gradual weight shifts from foot to foot. Tai
chi walking improves balance and leg strength
while helping the mind to focus its attention
on a part of the body that doesn’t ordinarily
get much attention. This focus removes the attention
from areas of pain and places focus on the feet
and gradual weight shifts. People report a decrease
in anxiety and a slowing down of the thoughts
in the mind as they tai chi walk. Bed-bound
patients can tai chi walk through visualization.
Studies have shown that visualization of an
activity is almost as good as the activity itself
and has the added benefit of being able to visualize
a level of expertise that the body may not yet
be able to achieve.
Five Element Qigong exercise:
This exercise can be done in the standing,
sitting, or lying positions with only minimal
modifications. During the exercise attention
is focused initially on the earth element, then
the air element and then the water element followed
by the wood element and finally the fire element.
Each element has particular movements and practitioners
are encouraged to think of those specific elements
in nature as they do the movements. It is a
way to connect with nature when actual access
to nature is limited.
Basic Tai Chi for Arthritis form:
This tai chi form was developed by Dr. Paul
Lam as an introduction to tai chi that can be
modified to accommodate a variety of physical
limitations. It can be done standing, in a chair
or even in a bed.
If you have further questions about tai chi’s
use in the hospice setting, please feel free
to contact me through
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