Caregiver Touch: Personal Touch-Are They Different?

Caring for a loved one involves an “all hands on deck” approach…RIGHT? Have you ever considered the touch that caregivers deliver has many layers? Something to think about. I spoke the other day with a husband’s caregiver. He has been caring for his wife for many years since her Parkinson’s diagnosis which has now progressed to the painful reality of a “different kind of touch.” Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects areas of the brain creating a host of symptoms. It is also known as a type of movement disorder. You will find trembling in your hands, arms, legs, and face, which involves trouble chewing and swallowing concerns. Stiffness of the arms, legs, and body trunk is common, with a slow gait, poor balance, and coordination. The progression of these symptoms demands different ways to “handle or touch” the care recipient for safety’s sake.

As I listened to him sharing that his wife of 50-years flew out of the wheelchair due to an uneven sidewalk that he did not see, my heart sank with compassion as he shared his latest calamity. Due to gait and balance issues and getting “stuck” in movements, the lifting in and out of the wheelchair felt to him as “manhandling” his wife. Then he said his wife asked him the next day… “honey, will you give me a hug.” I teared up thinking that for a short moment in time his wife wanted to be held, hugged as only a husband can do for a wife. For those of us who have lifted up or taken a loved one out of a wheelchair, the grip to prevent dropping them can be python-like. We don’t intend to squeeze the life out of our loved ones, but we do intend to prevent injuring them.

What are your lived experiences of touch with your loved one? Have you thought about the different touches that align with caring? In nursing practices, we are hands-on with the central focus on care and compassion, both having a distinct touch. There is actually research on caring science to offer insights into human touch while the art and science of the profession, discover, educate, and inform those of us whose divine assessment is to care.

As Your Proactive Caregiver Advocate, I’d like to remind us all to separate the caregiving touch from the human-personal touch. When all the caregiving duties are settled for the day, go back and give that big caring and compassionate hug to your loved one, your care recipient. Consider the touch we give to a newborn. It is soft, soothing, and priceless. In our business of the activities of daily living, let the real touches be the ones to be remembered. Be safe! Be well!

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