Most adults are aware that elderly people need a lot to stay healthy and happy, such as a good diet, entertainment, comfortable living space, and adequate medical care. But how many of them realize that to have good mental and physical health, elderly adults need to have human contact in the form of touching? A growing number of aging adults are touch deprived, meaning they don’t get enough physical interaction with others and it is affecting their health dramatically.
Many people have probably heard of the research that showed baby monkeys chose to cuddle with a soft monkey figure versus a wire one that provided food. Studies of infants in orphanages across the world show that those who are touch deprived don’t grow as well and aren’t as healthy. By far, the largest group of touch deprived people in the United States are elderly adults. As they retire, live alone and grow more isolated, seniors are less likely to experience therapeutic touching. Often, seniors only interact with a home care aide, a doctor, and some family members. Their health definitely suffers when an elderly person is touch deprived.
Studies show that regular touching can provide seniors with lower blood pressure, lower stress hormones, and less pain. Other positive effects include a stronger immune system, higher self-esteem, and a lower risk of depression. Touch can calm down the nervous system and provide comfort and peace during difficult times. Seniors tend to live in conditions where they are not exposed to touch, especially after they experience the death of a spouse. Their mental and physical health can improve when they experience the healing power of touch.
So what can family caregivers do to ensure their elderly relatives are not touch deprived? The obvious answer is to provide more hugs and physical gestures when speaking, such as touching their arm or resting your arm along their back in a side hug. Sitting next to a loved one during a television show or on the front porch can also help. Even helping them with dressing and grooming can provide opportunities for comforting pats and simple touches. Many cultures encourage physical contact between adults, such as kissing and hugging when greeting each other, while others are much less open about it. Family members can take the necessary steps to boost the number and type of touches with their elderly relative.
Another thing that family members can do to ensure their aging relative is not touch deprived is to check out geriatric massage. This is a unique treatment that provides massages specifically to meet the needs of the elderly. Practitioners are trained to assess each elderly client’s needs and provide a massage that is safe and effective. Many senior centers, retirement homes, and aging services are providing geriatric massage because it is so effective in boosting an elderly adult’s physical and mental health.
Everyone depends on touch to enjoy a happy and healthy life. However, elderly adults are increasingly touch deprived. It’s never too late for family caregivers to make changes and increase the amount of therapeutic touching in their aging loved one’s life.
If you or an aging loved one are considering hiring home care in Anderson, SC, contact Heart of the Carolinas Home Care at 864-991-3116. Providing Home Care Services in Greenville, Simpsonville, Greer, Anderson, Spartanburg, Mauldin, Seneca, Laurens, Charleston, Columbia and the surrounding areas.
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