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THERAPEUTIC TOUCH: Compassionate Care for the Alzheimer Patient and Their Caretakers

By Janet Goldenbogen-Self, RN, QTTT
Published in 2007  Peninsula Daily News HEALTHY LIVING

Effective resources for the elderly and their caretakers is a continual quest. Therapeutic Touch (TT), a gentle energy balancing modality, is a highly researched technique repeatedly proven to aid this
population on many levels.

In the early 70's Dolores Krieger, RN, PhD and Dora Kunz, president of the Theosophical Society developed a contemporary version of hands-on-healing where the practitioner uses their hands to facilitate the innate healing abilities of the client. Since that time Therapeutic Touch has been widely researched, taught and received all over the world because it works!

I’d like to cite an important study that tested the efficacy of TT both behaviorally and physiologically by attempting to decrease the frequency of agitated actions and levels of salivary and urine cortisol stress hormone  in persons with Alzheimer's disease (AD). From Woods, D.L. and Dimond, M (1) "Ten subjects with moderate to severe AD, aged 71-84 years old, residing in a special care unit, were observed every 20 minutes for 10 hours/day, monitored 24 hours/day for physical activity, and had daily samples taken for salivary and urine cortisol.  (cortisol levels are noted to increase with stress).  TT was administered by the Primary Investigator for 5-7 minutes, twice a day for three days.  Analysis showed significant decrease in overall agitated behavior and in two specific behaviors: vocalization… and pacing or walking during and after treatment. A decreasing trend over time was noted for salivary and urine cortisol."

Many other research studies and 20 years of using Therapeutic Touch (TT) in my own nursing practice has shown the following to be results from this intentional, gentle, comforting energy balancing work:

  • Elicits the relaxation response
  • Decreases anxiety
  • Decreases pain
  • Enhances wound healing
  • Strengthens immune response
  • Provides family and caretaker relief

I' d like to delve into my personal-story archives to show you how one family was helped by their profoundly simple, yet simply profound TT experience. Lorraine was a 75 year old woman diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease and adult failure to thrive. I was asked to see her by the local hospital's hospice where I work as a comfort therapist providing Therapeutic Touch. Lorraine lived with her daughter's family. The family was very open to my coming. They  heard of Therapeutic Touch, but weren't exactly sure what it was or what I'd be doing.

When I arrived the first time, Lorraine was in bed. She gave me a big smile and thought I was an old friend of hers. I sat with Lorraine and began to tell her and the family about TT, explaining to them that when we are not well the energy patterns of mind/body/spirit are out of order. To regain a sense of wellness, (not necessarily cure), these energy patterns must be returned to order. This is what TT does.

During a TT session, which lasts no more than 30 minutes, the practitioner puts themself into a calm state and asks the client (if they are mentally lucid and able) to do the same. A clear intention for whatever the client is asking for i.e. pain relief, peace, ability to sleep, or perhaps for reconciliation with a family member to occur is clearly stated quietly during the session. The practitioner then gently assesses, clears, smoothes and reorders the client's energy field patterns moving their hands in a rhythmical, flowing manner. I also offered to give family members short TT sessions so they would be able to feel what Lorraine was experiencing.

Each week was so different with Lorraine, sometimes she would easily allow a session and fall asleep. Other times when she was very agitated and vocalizing, I would talk to her calmly with intention and discreetly provide TT. The family asked that I use peace and release of fear as intentions for the TT energy balancing. As time went on, it was sometimes difficult to see changes in Lorraine, however, the family became more peaceful, less afraid and more able to handle Lorraine's care taking duties, thus Lorraine also became more at peace.

TT carefully teaches to not be attached to the outcome of the session. When the intention is placed the universal plan seems to take over. In this case TT was helping the family in general.

Therapeutic Touch (www.therapeutic-touch.org) is a highly regulated research and educational entity. The Nurse-Healers-Professional Associates International, Inc. has set a rigid standard of care for the ethics, legality and teaching of Therapeutic Touch, and  now offered throughout the world in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, home care and hospice. I feel honored to be able to offer this service to individuals and families. It is a safe, non- invasive method that can help bring balance to anyone with any condition.

(1)Woods, D.L. and Dimond, M. (2002, October). The Effect of Therapeutic Touch on agitated behavior and cortisol in persons with Alzheimer's disease, Biological Research for Nursing, Vol. 4, No. 2, 104-114.

Janet Goldenbogen-Self, RN is a qualified practitioner and teacher of Therapeutic Touch with the NH-PAI. She is in private practice  in Port Townsend providing Therapeutic Touch to clients in her office, private homes, hospitals, clinics, nursing homes. She also teaches individuals and groups Therapeutic Touch. There is no need to be a health care practitioner to learn TT. Classes are scheduled on a regular rotating basis. She can be reached at 360-379-8134

 

     

 

 

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