The Importance of Touch When Caring for the Elderly

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The Importance of Touch When Caring for the Elderly


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Today's society is preoccupied by gadgets, productivity and beauty, not the wrinkled bodies of our elderly. Research shows that the lack of touch from a caregiver is distressing to the person receiving care.

Those diagnosed with mental illness or those who are elderly are shown to be touched the least. Human beings have an increased need for nurturing and touch as they age. The elderly who do not have family nearby often rely on healthcare professional to nurture them.

Touch is the most developed sense when an infant is born and continues to play a fundamental role in communication development throughout life.

The benefits of touch:

  • Therapeutic as a form of nonverbal communication
  • Decreases sensory deprivation
  • Increases reality orientation
  • Stimulates elderly minds
  • Decreases pain
  • Decreases isolation and vulnerability
  • Forms a sense of companionship
  • Touch is an excellent form of nonverbal communication.
  • Touch conveys trust, hope, and reassurance to patients.
  • Caregivers describe a personal feeling of reward when intentionally physically contacting another human being.

Clinicians report excellent results with the elderly:

  • It helped to promote sleep
  • Enhanced feelings of well being
  • Decreased blood pressure

A 1-year study project looked at the effects of gentle massage on two groups of elderly nursing home residents:

  • Those suffering from chronic pain and those with dementia who were exhibit anxious or agitated behaviors.

-Touch decreased pain and anxiety scores in the patients.
-Communication between patients and staff was shown to improve.

To the elderly person in a healthcare facility, receiving touch in the form of gentle massage reduces the emotional strain of living away from familiar surroundings.

In the end, the patient feels cared about, the relationship grows and both lives are changed forever.

“Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work.” -Mother Teresa of Calcutta

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