How physical contact with residents can have positive impacts in elder care.
With the ever-increasing presence of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia in the senior population, there is a growing need to find ways to connect to patients who are living with these diseases. There are many different forms of therapy and activity that can be beneficial, and one of the best is also one of the simplest: touch.
Mary Beth Kaup, Recreation Therapist at Cross Creek at Lee’s Summit, believes that gentle, positive touch is an important part of engaging with residents.
According to a study cited in the International Journal of Neuroscience, they found that following a massage, the stress hormone cortisol decreases and serotonin and dopamine levels increase in the body (this makes massage therapy a great method of self-care for caregivers, too). Kaup has utilized different programs in the past that incorporate gentle massage therapy on the hands, shoulders and upper arms, along with the use of soothing music and aromatherapy. To Kaup, the positive effect is clear.
“I found that in patients with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or other forms of dementia, using gentle, healing touch led to a noticeable decrease in agitation,” Kaup said.
In addition to the body’s hormonal responses to touching, touch with elderly residents under the proper circumstances can help increase feelings of kinship and affection. Often, people can be afraid to touch an elderly person because of a feeling that they are frail— and over time, this aversion can make seniors feel neglected and in need of human connection.
“Some of them would comment that the touch just felt good, because they don’t get touched,” Kaup said.
Every individual is different. What works well for one dementia patient may not work well for another, so it is important to always tailor therapeutic recreation to each resident’s specific health needs and preferences.
For more information on how touch can be used in senior care, read Caring.com’s article “Elder Caregiving Effects of Touch” and Provider Magazine’s article “The Healing Power of Touch for LTC Residents.”
Stay tuned for the next installment in our five-part series on senses in different methods of elder care, “Memory and Scent – Five Senses Series Part Two.”