As youngsters, most of us were touched quite often. Who doesn’t remember your mother’s cool hand placed gently on your forehead when you were sick? I remember momma laying me down on the counter and washing my hair in the kitchen sink followed by drying and curling and brushing and fussing. I complained about the tangles, but really I loved my momma’s touch. With daddy it was hugs all the time, or patting my back to tell me everything was all right. You just don’t outgrow the need for touch. Touch is essential for everyone at every age. Without a word a touch can say, “I love you.”
Medical practitioners know that touch can ease stress, alleviate fatigue, and lower depression. Nurses use touch to comfort patients before and after surgery. Touch has a power that cannot be compared to anything else. The touch of someone who loves us is magic. Touch heals the body and the heart.
We’ve heard how babies who aren’t held and touched often develop the failure to thrive, but what about older people?
When I worked in an assisted living facility, a resident told me, “Karen, you’re just what we need here. You touch people.” I confess. I’m a hugger. She went on to say that the only time many of the residents were touched was just out of the necessity to meet needs. That just doesn’t cut it.
The Right Touch Can Turn a Really Bad Day Around
I learned this from my daddy. He spent decades standing on his feet cutting hair all day. When he came home you could tell he was tired and stressed. “Angel, rub my feet,” he’d say. I’d take off his socks and shoes and rub. He loved it — and still does.
While my husband was going to barber school, he had to learn to do a face massage and of course, I volunteered to be his guinea pig! The first step was to place a warm towel on the face and then some moisturizer in key spots. Gently he’d rub in little circles in those vital spots. Last he would do my neck. It was heaven! I could feel the tension leaving my whole body.
Be Gentle With Older Skin!
You can give your sweet touch in so many ways — combing or brushing their hair or washing their feet, but with older skin you must be very gentle. It doesn’t have the elasticity it did when your loved one was younger. If you use lotion, choose one without fragrance and non-allergenic. It’s your touch they need and not a lot of smelly lotions they may be sensitive to.
Try the Touch Test
I think we all need to be aware of how important it is to touch those we love. Try a warm hug or a pat on the hand and see if pain and stress are eased. Try giving a hand massage or paint your momma’s fingernails or toenails. You can wash their face with a warm wash cloth or rub their back before they go to sleep. You’ll be saying, without a word, how much they mean to you.