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Published By Right at Home Boston and North on March 25, 2021

Why touch is important in Alzheimer’s care

The very first sense we receive is the feeling of touch. We barely consider how much time we spend caregiving as a touch that isn't necessary for the daily schedule care for people with Alzheimer's or dementia.

Touch opens part of the orbitofrontal cortex of our brain and excites the production of a hormone known as oxytocin. It's defined as the "care and connection" hormone to scientists. This response in our mind aids feelings of safety, trust, and a decrease in pressure and anxiety. Scientists recommend that touch is genuinely significant to human communications, bonding, and mental health.

For people with dementia, the human touch plays a significant part in improving mental health. Research has found that only five minutes of hand massage can affect a physical relaxation reaction and decrease cortisol level, a hormone released during stress or anxiety. Massage can boost the serotonin level, a neurochemical that advances feelings of calm and lessens stress.

Why Is Touch Important?

We all need some home care, and the person with dementia is no particular case. While the patient with Alzheimer's probably won't have the option to communicate for touch in words or even embrace a hug in late phases of dementia, caregiving touch plays a significant role here.

Touch can also help Alzheimer's patients by calming them. One research that included 68 nursing home residents with dementia showed that the people who got hand massages for 10 minutes showed significantly reduced anxiety than the patients who got no mediation.

With dementia, understanding can become muddled. It's normal for anxiety feelings to increase as dementia progresses. It can be overwhelming and disturbing for a person with Alzheimer's. Touch can help communication through caregiving without depending on words.

Did you know the human connection, including skilled touch, has become more general as an effective medication? Professional human touch, regularly as a massage, blends clinical innovation with individual communication, which is significant for improving outcomes among individuals with Alzheimer's.

Touch caregiving is significant for every person's mental health. For example, children without their physical necessities being met can experience the inability to flourish. People with dementia can react the same way. The absence of touch in caregiving can bring about similar devastating impacts on older people with Alzheimer's.

Ways to Use Touch in Caregiving

  • Hand Lotion Massage
  • Hair Combing or Brushing
  • Manicures
  • Shoulder Hug
  • High-Five
  • Licensed Massage Therapy
  • Handshakes
  • Pat on the Arm

How has homecare changed during COVID-19?

People with Alzheimer's illness and any other dementia have a high chance of forgetting to wash their hands or take possible precautions to prevent COVID-19. Additionally, diseases like COVID-19 may worsen mental weakness due to dementia.

During this pandemic, it is significant for caregivers to consider the risks and practice extra safety precautions for individuals living with Alzheimer's. While people are in isolation, a family member with Alzheimer's can be a stressor for the family. The isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic may be relieved, somewhat, by using professional home care, but it's pretty hard since people without dementia are in depression.

For caregiving the Alzheimer's patient or a person with any other dementia , the following tips can be considered:

  • If a dementia patient shows increased confusion quickly, contact your medical services supplier for counsel. Unless the person is experiencing breathing issues or an exceptionally high fever, it's wise to call your health care provider rather than going to an emergency room. Your doctor might do a telehealth visit so the patient does not have to visit to the hospital.
  • During this pandemic, people with Alzheimer's may require extra reminders for necessary hygienic practices.
  • Consider putting signs in the washroom and somewhere else to remind people with dementia to wash their hands with soap/sanitizer for 20 seconds. One can demonstrate this by washing your own hands.
  • Think carefully and make optional plans for the Alzheimer's patient for people being cared for at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. It may include choosing the alternative caregiving person if the primary caregiver gets sick.

Final Thoughts

Physical touch is important for dementia caregiving situations. If someone is confused, baffled, experiencing paranoia or delusions, use caution in moving toward them or entering their space. An unwelcome response could occur.

Right at Home offers our Dementia and Cognitive Support Specialists to help families get some caregiving relief and to meet people with dementia in a way that brings out what they can do. This could be cooking with assistance, drawing or playing a game with no stress. Right at Home CareTeam are also trained in the Compassionate Touch program by AGEucate. There is a free virtual training program for families on the AGEucate site.

While we do have to use caution during this pandemic, that should not stop us from caregiving the people with dementia who are trusted to us, with love and compassion. Appropriate, skilled touch is part of that care.

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