Tactile Stimulation and the AD Patient | (AD = Alzheimer Disease)

The need for tactile stimulation or touch, continues throughout our lives. Older adults may experience less touch because they have fewer contacts in their immediate environment, compared to the younger person.

As the senses of sight and sound decrease, touch becomes an increasingly important means of communicating. Touch then becomes a vital vehicle for expressing emotions and a way to make meaningful contact with others.

Here are some thoughts to keep in mind when using touch with an individual who has been diagnosed with Alzheimers disease.

1. Respect the dignity, cultural and social background of this individual.

How? Touching with dignity means touching as one adult to another. It also means respecting the AD patient’s need for privacy and obtaining permission to touch.

2. Begin the use of touch gradually, constantly assessing the person’s reaction.

How? Use touch frequently! It is amazing how even those with the most advanced AD, respond positively to this familiar, over-learned action.

3. Beware of the emotional component associated with touch.

How? Do so gently but not hesitantly, and above all, touch with a sense of compassion and caring. As with verbal communication, how you communicate with touch is as important as what you say.

4. Beware of where you touch.

How? Use conventional approaches and activities that involve touch, e.g. dancing, handshaking, taking an arm while walking to a group activity, grooming, haircare, manicure, etc.

5. Encourage the appropriate use of touch between peers. Use activities which encourage touch and incorporate approaches to touch that caretakers perform daily for the AD patient.

6. Use the different types of touch to either calm or stimulate as necessary.

How? A firm or pressure touch is reassuring or calming. A light touch can be stimulating i.e. gently touching with finger tips, the brush of some soft fabric, etc.

7. Make sure the AD person is aware of your presence before you touch.

8. Be careful on fragile older skin which may tear or shear much more easily.

9. Be sensitive and responsive to appropriate touch from the individual with AD to you as their caregiver.

How? The offer of appropriate touch by the AD patient to you the caregiver, is a gift that needs to be accepted. Individuals with AD have needs to nurture and care for others and is their way of expressing thanks.

10. Be careful that caring touch will not take on a sexual interpretation.

How? Because of difficulties with interpreting the environment, persons with AD may misinterpret touch. If the person’s response in anyway suggests that the touch was interpreted as a sexual overture, do not use that approach.

11. Touch from the non-human environment should be encouraged. That can provide stimulating, appropriate materials and furnishings that offer a variety of pleasing touch experiences.

How? Encourage visitation from family pets which provides a living responsive touch experience and a non-threatening opportunity for the person to express affection and nurturing.

A final thought for the caregiver – Caregiving, whether it be performed by a paid professional caregiver or family member, is doubly difficult when it comes to the AD individual.

The eleven points in this article can be of benefit when performed with sincerity, compassion and regularity. I wish to emphasize this belief, because the application of therapeutic touch may not always be immediately successful.

“Expectations may be high at first but you have to remember that expectations are a part of life and seems to be ingrained in our thinking. You can lessen your expectations a little bit about things that are supposed to be, and instead just accept what is.” This was expressed by Richard Carlson in his book, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.”

Share this post:

Comments on "Tactile Stimulation and the AD Patient | (AD = Alzheimer Disease)"

Comments 0-5 of 0

Please login to comment