Just the Right Touch for Caregivers

Quite often when we think about staying in touch with an older adult in our family or friendship circle, it is about making that long overdue phone call or sending an e-mail or a letter. But being in touch – especially for older adults – is more importantly about the more literal version of touching. Especially for the old-old, those who are older than 75 years of age, two sensory stimuli are more unavailable to them than when they were younger. They don’t hear from people important to them or they simply do not have the opportunity to reach out and touch another individual.

By age 75 a large percentage of seniors will have experienced the loss of a spouse or a loss of their ability to get around as they once did. And as a consequence, their shrinking world brings them less in communication with or in contact with others, and communication and touching are critical for a well-adjusted and happy life. Especially touch, we tend to take for granted, because we do not really even think about shaking hands when meeting a friend, or giving and receiving hugs from dear friends or family or just holding hands with someone close to us 송파스웨디시.

Now, picture older adults who may be isolated in their homes, because they no longer drive or get about easily or they may be institutionalized and away from family of friends. And most often these individuals are widowed, making the sense of being alone all the more difficult. Simple touch or massage can make a difference.

You may recall the studies of infants who are not held, caressed or engaged and the terrible effect that such neglect can have on their emotional development. An article published some time ago in the Journal of Applied Gerontology studied older volunteers who at first received massage three times a week for three weeks and then were allowed, in turn, to give massage to infants at a nursery school for another three weeks. There was an improvement in depressive symptoms as well as improvements in health and lifestyle after the first three weeks, but the improvements were even more dramatic after the second session. Massage, it seems, gave even more benefit to the individuals providing massage in this case, perhaps, the authors speculated, because these seniors felt less awkward about massaging the infants that they did about receiving a massage. The bottom-line, however, is that touch positively influenced all concerned.

Scientists suggest that touch works the way it does by stimulating receptors just beneath the skin which reduce levels of a hormone called cortisol. By suppressing this hormone which kills the natural disease-fighting cells of our bodies, touch actually boosts the immune system. Yet, older adults are most likely to be out of the “touching loop.” So, next time you think about getting in touch with an older person whom you may not have seen for a while, take it to the next level. If you make physical touch part of your connection with that person, it will be good for them and good for you.

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