Pacifica Senior Living Blog

Touch & Memory Care: The Power Of Touch Therapy for Dementia Residents

Feb 22, 2023 1:20:00 PM / by Carly Dodd, Pacifica Senior Living

Physical Effects of Human Touch

Our memories are intricately connected to our senses. Whether it is a smell that brings us back to a specific time or place, a song that reminds us of past experiences, or even colors that we associate strongly with certain feelings, our senses help us form and retain some of our most powerful memories.

Touch, too, can have a strong and deep reaction - especially when it comes to memories and assisting those in Memory Care.

How Does Touch Impact Memory?

Research has found that gentle and soothing physical touch can greatly affect someone’s mood. It has been used to great success for individuals with dementia or memory loss to help calm agitation and feelings of unease.

Hand massages are one of the most common practices in Memory Care, and studies indicate they can have a calming effect for up to an hour afterwards. Additionally, physical touch can help form bonds and connections - especially in those who are non verbal. Residents with memory loss conditions often feel disconnected from their surroundings, in large part due to confusion and feeling out of place. Physical touch can help to ground them, and also create deep meaningful bonds between residents and caregivers or loved ones. 

Touch Therapy 

Touch therapy is a growing program within Memory Care communities which aims to combat feelings of isolation or disconnectedness. 

Why is Touch Therapy so Important?

The root of touch therapy is combatting touch deprivation. Seniors - especially those with memory loss conditions - tend to be at a much higher risk of touch deprivation  which is connected to feelings of anxiety, depression, insecurity, isolation, and even decreased sensory awareness.

Touch can help reconnect seniors with others, which has a direct effect on their mental health and overall wellbeing.

Touch is a universal therapy that is associated with care and compassion, so that even when one’s memories fade, they are able to recognize and associate positively with gentle touch. This in turn leads to positive emotions and a boost in spirit. 

How Does Touch Therapy Help Individuals with Dementia?

Because touch therapy can reduce agitation, disassociation, and restlessness, it can also help to reduce undesirable behaviors that arise from this agitation. Actions such as wandering, being combative or resistant to help, pacing, or even having verbal outbursts can all be linked to feelings of agitation and discomfort.

Introducing touch therapy and massages has been shown to reduce these feelings of agitation and foster feelings of security and calm, thus helping to reduce the risk of wandering or disruptive behaviors. This helps the individuals feel more at peace, but also helps caregivers better facilitate any aid needed, and also form more meaningful bonds with patients or residents.

Simply put, human touch has been seen to greatly improve moods, reduce negative behaviors, and increase positivity overall in those with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. 

How Does Pacifica Use Touch Therapy?

Most forms of touch therapy are simple and part of a caregiver’s daily routine already. By being extra mindful of the benefits of touch, and adding a few extra simple techniques, team members and caregivers can greatly improve the overall wellbeing of Memory Care residents.

Making eye contact, connecting with residents, hugging, holding their hand, or simply placing a hand on an arm or shoulder when speaking with them are all simple ways to integrate touch into everyday activities or care. For residents who need a little extra assistance, touch can also be added through hand massages and manicures, gentle massages when having their hair washed, or holding arms or hands while assisting them with their mobility or getting around the community.

Pacifica Senior Living implements these strategies in day to day activities and care, but also through special therapies, treatments, and programs. Hand massages and manicure sessions are particularly popular with Memory Care residents, as are on-site beauty parlors and salons that use hair brushing, washing, and touch to help residents feel and look their very best.

Our unique approach to Memory Care aims to create a life enriching experience for all, and implements sense therapy not only through touch, but by way of calming music, reminiscent programs, aroma therapy, and color therapy. Together, these programs focus on the connection between senses and our memories in order to boost memory, form connections, and ultimately create a better, more enriched lifestyle for those with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or other forms of cognitive impairment conditions. 

You can learn more about our Memory Care programs, or come visit one of our communities to see for yourself. Reach out to us or schedule a tour for more info. 

Come visit us!

Tags: Memory Care