I just watched a wonderful eldercare segment on CNN.com by Dr. Sanjay Gupta about the importance of therapeutic touch in Alzheimer's caregiving. The segment features Sol Rogers, an 89-year-old caregiver to his spouse, Rita, who has had Alzheimer's disease for 8 years. When she entered an eldercare facility several months ago, she could no longer walk on her own and she was generally unresponsive to her husband and other caregivers.
A New Caregiving Idea
One day, Sol came up with an idea that he thought might help Rita. He credited the idea to God and said that he wondered if spending more time cuddling with his wife might help her. As part of his caregiving routine, Sol began getting in bed with his wife at the eldercare facility for an hour each day. During that hour he would caress her face, cuddle with her, and tell her that he loved her.
Signs of Improvement
Within a couple of months, Sol and others at the eldercare facility began to notice some changes in Rita. She started to speak a bit and became more responsive to others in general. She also started moving more and showed improvement with other symptoms. Sol said that he believed that she improved because "Love conquers all."
Research on Touch in Eldercare
UCLA researchers have studied the effects of therapeutic touch and found that touch can decrease stress hormones, improve relaxation, and decrease anxiety. They feel that therapeutic touch as part of caregiving like that which Sol gives his wife can improve the symptoms of Alzheimer's as well as improve quality of life for caregivers.
Therapeutic touch can be useful when caring for parents as well. Sitting next to your parent while holding his hand, stroking your parent's hair or giving your parent a backrub are all ways to enhance eldercare through therapeutic touch.
Are you already using therapeutic touch while caring for parents? If so, please share your experiences with this aspect of eldercare so caregivers can benefit from your experiences. Post a comment to this blog, and be sure to sign up for our email list to receive regular updates about new eldercare topics posted on EldercareABC.com.
--Carrie L. Hill, Ph.D