The need to be touched does not disappear from our childhood and some of sweetest memories are from having our hair brushed, our foreheads stroked and cuddles. We give this to a child when they are most fragile and dependent and end of life is no different. In fact, it is believed that a person’s need to be tactile increases with age. Touch and shared humanity is, therefore, a vital part of medicine and one that has moved on in modern medicine from treating the whole person. Years ago, nurses used to regularly administer back massages more than pills, yet now due to limited funding, time constraints and a rapidly ageing society their needs are focussed on pills and paperwork, though no fault of their own. Medical science seems to have extended our lives, but, has not improved the sense of well-being to match this.
I have chosen to limit the use of the word ‘massage’ here, due to its seeming rigidity with technique and preconceived notions. Touch for the elderly and those with palliative needs or ageing conditions need a presence who is there in the here and the now, awake, aware and alert with no preconception or prejudices. Someone that can open their heart and reach out and touch with intention as an expression of compassion to aid and support healing.
This touch may only be necessary and required for short periods, unlike traditional massage, yet will relieve discomfort, reduce stress, relax, boost immunity through increasing the bodies primary flow of lymph, rebalance the flow of nerve transmitters, reassure, support, nurture and nourish. This healing is in the sense of wholeness that a medical transformation. An increase in physical and mental stimulation from improved blood flow and improved oxygen levels. A reduction in the bodies tension will result in better breathing, mobility, appetite, digestion and elimination. Release of muscular tension can decrease the need for further medication, promote restful sleep, increased mobility and balance/ coordination. An overall improvement in circulation of blood and lymph reduces oedema, prevents sores, speeds surgery healing and improves the skin. As the nervous system of the individual improves the oxygen-carrying capacity improves mental health and reduces stress, tension and feelings of loneliness, isolation and abandonment.
The effects can also be seen in those patients in intensive care, where improved heart rate and small changes can be affected by touch.
Many do not understand the need for the power of this touch, for some with the loss of their loved ones it may have been many years since they have experienced such contact and recent surroundings that they find themselves in, they are part of touch through the procedure. Nursing staff and caregivers may be too busy to have the time to give to this and frequently the communication is better from those who have no particular role to fulfil in the lives of those in need. No expectations or attachments can be seen to have significant benefit. Some have outlived their family, have few visitors, touch, therefore, provides a key social interaction.
In care settings, individuals have often given up their material lifetime possessions, reminders of their past and lost their familiar environments, routines, social relationships, community and space and privacy. Any current activity comes from routine medical necessary activity. Touch can provide a respite to this, a universal non-verbal communication that can support behaviours in Dementia and Alzheimer’s, such as; restlessness, agitation, fear and withdrawing.
A person with Alzheimer’s may be in their later stages looking for themselves, as their nervous system declines, they may be agitated and confused and skin to skin contact can display attention, companionship, mental stimulation, social interaction, acceptance and acknowledgement. With no sense of self or physical reality, it is heart-breaking for those around them to watch them disappear and someone that can provide therapy with a thorough understanding of the symptoms and the characteristics has the ability and patience to respond in a compassionate and supportive way, can be with them and accept this better.
It is important also to remember the caregivers, who may also benefit from touch or therapeutic treatments.
Key characteristics include; eye-contact, non-rushed positive phrasing, having empathy, open facial expression and gestures, gentle physical guidance and working with the individual on a level or below. Overall there is a need to display qualities of adaptability, adjusting to changes in circumstances and environments, touch sensitivity, intuition, focus, acceptance of things as they are, openheartedness, as a sense of self and full attention to the person receiving treatment.
Sarah Bailey – 25thhourltd
Fully Qualified Level 3 Aromatherapist with Mental Health Psychology Masters. Insured and a full member of the CThA, FHT & CHNC federations. 25th hour offers Aromatherapy and Massage treatments which are bespoke to your needs through a full medical and lifestyle consultation. Tailored oils will then be used for a massage treatment to offer you full therapeutic benefits. We also offer from this further preparation, which you can purchase to use in the comfort of your own home, blended to your needs. Supporting those in with Dementia, Alzheimer’s, Palliative Care & those in need of Mental Health well-being through touch, talk & aromatherapy massage treatment. Mobile or on-site. Available for group care setting bookings and individual. I offer well-being Full Aromatherapy body massage, Back, Neck & Shoulder massage, Facial hot towel & massage, Facial with homemade facemask, Hand & Foot Massage & Bespoke aromatherapy themed massage, such as; detox cellulite treatment & lymphatic drainage, Immune Booster, Digestive issue abdominal massage.
Touch therapy in caring for those with Dementia, Alzheimer's and Palliative Care
An overview of the benefits to touch therapy in the Elderly, Palliative care and conditions such as; Dementia, Alzheimer's and Cancer.