Consider the power of touch. Touch can be a wonderful sensation that helps us release stress and build positive feelings. We all enjoy the healing force behind holding hands or getting a massage or even embracing a friend or loved one with a big “bear hug.” Throughout our lives, we put ourselves in social situations that will enable us to have contact with friends and family to fulfill our need for appropriate touch.
The need for positive touch is so basic that we don’t really think about the many ways – and many people – who daily promote our overall well-being through physical contact. We forget about the power of touch; with busy schedules and activities where we are surrounded by co-workers, friends, and family, it’s easy to take for granted the beneficial sensation of physical contact when that need is consistently met.
But fulfilling that essential need is something we can’t take for granted as our loved ones age. Life changes drastically when friends and family are no longer with us on a daily basis. Think about the many changes a woman or man may face after the death of a spouse, especially after being with his or her spouse every day for the last 50 or 60 years. Perhaps grown children and grandchildren aren’t able to visit to help supplement the physical contact that has been lost; the depth of the loss of a physical expression of caring can exacerbate the depression and grief of losing a loved one. Peers and old friends may also be disappearing as they move away, pass away, or become isolated themselves.
No one wants to feel isolated. When we talk about remedies for isolation, though, we often focus on arranging social opportunities to improve and maintain mental stimulation through conversation and social activities. Isolation, however, also results in lack of physical contact and its associated benefits.
You can help your loved ones maintain a sense of overall well-being that includes positive touch experiences—even when you can’t be with your loved one all the time. The following suggestions can help you think creatively about ways to increase the good feelings for your loved one that come from physical contact.
- Does your loved one like pets? If your loved one enjoys being around animals and is able to care for a pet, a dog or cat might be an excellent addition to your loved one’s family and can provide the sense of positive touch on a regular basis.
- Perhaps your loved one lives in a neighborhood where there are young children. Would your loved one enjoy being a stand-in “grandparent” occasionally? You may be surprised to find parents in your loved one’s neighborhood who would welcome an arrangement that allows their children to build a relationship with an older person, and your loved one would also profit from the loving hugs, kisses and companionship of a young child.
- Have you considered pampering both yourself and your loved one on a regular basis? Maybe a trip to the spa is in order. If your schedule is so busy and full of stress that you can’t slow down to enjoy the time you are able to spend with your loved one, taking time to share a manicure, pedicure, facial, or other spa experience might be just the prescription for relaxation and positive touch for both of you.
- If your loved one has physical or cognitive challenges that would prevent him or her from enjoying a pet or caring for a child occasionally, you may want to consider hiring a caregiver who can not only assist with daily activities, but who can also serve as a companion for your loved one. A paid caregiver can become a close companion and can provide the missing link for personal touch by holding your loved one’s hand, rubbing your loved one’s shoulders, or giving your loved one hugs.
- A new living situation may be an option as well. Community living such as Woodland Ridge Assisted Living offers many of the opportunities listed above to ensure residents receive nourishing physical contact on a regular basis to enrich emotional and spiritual well-being.
Whatever solution works best for you and your loved one, remember that we all flourish with affirmative, healing physical contact. Hug someone today!