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That may sound a little dramatic to most people but if you stop to think of it, we all need the human touch. Think back to a time when you were hurting, either physical or emotionally, and someone came along and either touched you on the shoulder or held your hand and things seemed to get better.
There have been many studies done on this with a good deal of articles written on it but I prefer to just tell you my thoughts on it.
Everyone likes to be touched in a friendly manner. Babies are cuddled for a reason. It helps to establish a sense of safety and peace. In some hospitals, preemie babies are held by women hired to just do that…they rock the babies and cuddle with them. It has been proven to help them.
Senior citizens or other people that require caregivers are just the same. I believe the need for touch increases when people age or are sick. They need to feel a connection to the world. They tend to receive the least amount of touching of any age group. Seniors are most likely to live by themselves and have less physical contact with the outside world. But, as people age, they tend to be more likely to need touch and be touched than younger people.
Having someone take their hand, stroke their arm, or rub their feet can make them feel loved and reassure them that they are valued and not alone. Isolation can be swept away with a single stroke of the hand. It helps with other problems as well such as depression, feelings of isolation, lack of self-esteem, and anxiety.
Bottom line, we need to be touching the people we are taking care of. Below are several ways you can touch someone without it being obvious.
- Put lotion on either the hands or the legs. Mom had dry skin as she aged so I would just put lotion on every day or two.
- Holding hands. When Mom was in bed, we would watch tv until she fell asleep. I would just lightly hold her hand.
- Massage. Although Mom never got a massage and I am not sure she would have, a massage is a safe way for someone to get the touch needed. It can be as simple as a neck rub or as much as a full body massage.
- Brushing their hair. Mom loved to have her hair brushed and I can remember as a child I did too. One of the perks of going to get a haircut for women is the great shampoo that goes along with it.
- Just resting your hand on their shoulder or knee while in a seated position can be reassuring.
I really believe that touch is critical. Seniors sometimes only have one or two people they see on a regular basis and in most cases, they are busy and do not have the time to spend quality time.
If you are a caregiver, please take the time to touch your loved one in some way every day. It does both of you good.