Touching Environments

Irene Smith
May 22 · 2 min read

Families and human services not being allowed into assisted living communities and nursing homes is concerning to me. Although I understand why, I believe that modifications to environment can be made to ease the loneliness and depression I hear about from care providers.

Our sense of touch, often thought of as only a tactile expression, is both tactile and non- tactile. We are touched by what we see, what we hear, what we smell, and we are many times touched by what we feel in our hearts. We are touched emotionally. Our sense of touch encompasses all our other senses. The concept of healing environments is based in this truth.

With skillful and focused touch at a minimum there are some changes that can be made in residents’ rooms and in their personal belongings that will create a touching experience. Touch elicits oxytocin, the trusting hormone and endorphins, the pleasure and pain relief substance.

Textures can be used to compensate for the lack of nurturing tactile contact. A soft flannel sheet as a bottom sheet to cover the cold air mattress made of plastic can create a warm nurturing feeling. A flannel pillowcase on a soft pillow rather than a plastic pillow with a polyester stiff pillowcase can also accommodate a tactile experience of comfort and ease. I realize that plastic is used because of the incontinence issue however some extra laundry to ease some of the depression and anxiety being created from the lack of nurturing touch could be reassessed.

Sheep skin booties instead of heels on a plastic air mattress can also deliver the message of comfort and pleasure.

Dvds can be played in the rooms depicting nature scenes, people touching, people petting animals, water scenes. All of the above mentioned have been researched to create feelings of calm, pleasure and belonging.

The smell of chocolate chip cookies has been proven to make people happy; to stimulate feelings of home and family. Aromatherapy in the form of essential oils can be put into diffusers and used to elicit calm.

Music is used in all forms of healing. There is a you tube sound frequency channel that has meditative music for every challenge and symptom on earth. You do not have to believe in sound healing to experience how beautiful some of this music is. Simply type sound healing into the you tube search box and the choices are endless.

There are unlimited resources on the internet for music and healing visuals.

We have an opportunity to create something better than exists in residential care. We are being called to create something better. Residents are dying lonely, disengaged, and depressed. This does not have to be this way.

If you are a family member contribute to your loved one’s personal environment from some of the suggestions in this post. If you are a care provider take this post to your administrator and if you are simply a concerned person share this post where you feel it will be seen. If you cannot visit then pack up a box of non-tactile touching props and send them over with a note that says,” implement these improvements immediately!

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