AS A VOLUNTEER with the Renee Denmark Punia Community Hospice of Greenwood House in Ewing, Lisa Pizza has traveled thousands of miles and provided countless hours of massage and reflexology therapy to hospice patients and their families.
After working in the pharmaceutical industry for over 20 years, Pizza was looking for “a career where I could make an immediate difference, something I was passionate about,” she said. “My husband and I took care of my parents in our home for several years. Until it happens to you, people don’t understand what it takes to be a caregiver, both physically and emotionally.
“Massage therapy is my way of helping others in difficult situations.”
Janet Hayden, director of social work at the hospice, said, “Therapies like massage and reflexology are part of our commitment to provide pain and symptom management and can help a patient redirect their attention from pain. The body learns to relax, and the pain can become less prominent.”
Pizza visits hospice clients in their homes or at Greenwood House and the Abrams Residence.
Sometimes people have trouble communicating their needs, Pizza said. “Often I will massage a patient’s hands or legs and watch their reaction. It is always amazing when you are able to connect with someone, even people who are not able to communicate with you. I’ve learned to listen in a different way.”
Pizza also provides massages for caregivers. “I usually have to offer a few times because they are used to taking care of their loved ones and do not realize they need comfort and support. And I think they feel guilty focusing on themselves. Something even a 15-minute neck and shoulder massage can make a difference in their day,” she said.
“To be a volunteer you have to be really passionate about what you do and want to share it with others,” said Pizza. “Families are so appreciative that you are there as a volunteer spending time with their loved one just to make them feel better. It means a lot and I know I’ve shared something special with them.”
Pizza, who lives in Columbus, is the owner of Body of Peace Massage in Hamilton. A graduate of Gentle Healing School of Massage in Cranbury, she has national and state certification and is a graduate of Ahimsa Reflexology. She received specialized training in massage that focuses on seniors, the medically challenged, or those in hospice care.
To learn more about volunteer opportunities with the Punia Community Hospice of Greenwood House, call 609-883-6026.