Ten Reasons Why Touch Matters in Nursing Homes

Comforting a nursing home resident with a compassionate touch.

  1. Touch deprivation in old age is real. Studies have shown that frail older adults are less likely to receive meaningful touch, but it's a time when “tactile hunger is more powerful than ever,” As a result, people experience isolation, anxiety, pain, loneliness, boredom, and helplessness.
  2. Touch in caregiving is not all the same. Some touch is necessary during personal care and medical procedures while expressive touch shows care, concern, reassurance, affection, and love.
  3. Why touch matters to the person living in a nursing home. Research shows that touch improves the quality of life by:
  • Decreasing anxiety
  • Improving sleep
  • Easing physical discomfort
  • Increasing nutritional intake
  • Improving skin condition
  • Increasing social interaction
  • Reducing agitated behaviors
  • Enhancing relationship with caregivers
  1. Why touch matters to a nursing home resident’s family. They need assurance that their loved one is safe, cared for, and cared about. Family members need to relate to a loved that may not be able to communicate well because of their condition. They can use touch techniques to connect with their loved one.
  2. Why touch matters to the staff of a care facility. Care staff can learn skilled touch techniques that decrease caregiving challenges. For example, a nursing home resident became more cooperative during personal care following a five-minute skilled touch hand technique. Also, touch helps care staff to enjoy more of a relationship with those they care for.
  3. Why touch matters to the nursing home as an organization. It needs to provide excellent service. It must attract new residents and have a marketing edge in a competitive industry. It needs to retain skilled staff. As one nursing home administrator puts it: “Providing skilled touch for our residents puts us a cut above other facilities—going above and beyond what’s required.”
  4. Why touch matters to you. With a touch sensitivity to care for others grows and your ability to be a compassionate presence deepens. We share benefits of touch uplifting you while making a difference for someone else.
  5. Why touch matters to society. Healthcare in today’s high-tech world has become depersonalized. Medical care focuses on technical information.  Consequently, a person feels lost in the shuffle. We can bring together the world of medical technology with the human side of care only by reaching out and offering the gift of a compassionate touch.

Ann Catlin, OTR, LMT: For twenty years, Ann led in the field of skilled touch in eldercare and hospice. She has nearly forty years’ clinical experience as an occupational and massage therapist. She created Age-u-cate’s Compassionate Touch program and serves as a Master Trainer and training consultant.