For people who are living with dementia and under-going medical treatment of any kind, touch is literally a two-edged sword.
There’s the “touch” that comes with examination and treatment, which is a lot of poking and prodding that can be very painful at times. In the confusing weld of dementia, for the patients these painful experiences cause high levels of anxiety because they don’t always make sense to them.
But there’s also a more gentle form of touch that comes from loved ones and caregivers who will hold a hand during a painful procedure, give a neck massage to help relieve tension, or reach out to touch while sharing a prayer. The grounding touch of a loving family member or friend can help alleviate some of the patient’s stress.
One type of touch provides healing in the therapeutic, physical arena. The other provides emotional and spiritual healing.
In a recent scare over a month-long series of arrhythmia episodes, I very quickly got in touch with both types. And a third one as well—the patronizing pat on the shoulder from a doctor who was supremely disinterested in my overall health. He was sure he could “cure” my arrhythmia with drugs and at our final meeting gave me the shoulder pat and said “Don’t worry. You should be fine.” That was not comforting because it was the medical equivalent of having a stranger call me “honey” or “sweetie.”
It turned out I wasn’t fine because he prescribed much too strong a dosage of the anti-arrhythmia drugs. However, I quickly found a cardiologist whose concern was clearly genuine—“How can I help you achieve your health goals?” was his opening question. When he reached out to touch, it did feel comforting. He also greatly cut the drug dosage back and I was feeling fine again, finally.
Dementia caregivers need to be aware that their loved ones are living in a world of these two types of touch. Often we forget that the only touch our patients are experiencing is the more painful kind, or, worse still, the patronizing kind. So what can we do to help? Here are a few ideas:
• Holding someone’s hand during a physically painful medical procedure or during a diagnosis has been shown to reduce the patient’s stress. When you go to these types of appointments with your loved ones, hold their hands.
• Massages of the neck and shoulders, the hands, or the feet and lower legs can not only be comforting emotionally, but soothing physically.
• Holding your loved ones’ hands while you pray together at the start of what might be a stressful day, before the doctors comes into the examining room (or with the doctor if she or he is agreeable to it), before or after a difficult treatment, or at the end of a stressful day is always a good thing.
• Depending on your relationship with your loved one, a cuddle or embrace to soothe away stress is also a good thing.
Think of your childhood when you felt bad about a fight with a friend, a bad report card, or you fell and skinned your knees. Wasn’t your mother’s embrace an important part of making you feel better? The same applies to your loved one.
Love and care is always a great tool to help soothe those that are in uncomfortable situations, this is why I always believe that a hug goes a long way.
Really. So very true.
You absolutely right, in any case a hug make you fell good. Especialy, we have to pay atention on people having this disease.It’s too important for them!
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