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Touch increases wellbeing in nursing homes

24 Mar 2019, 02:50 ( 2 Months ago)

DF Report
Kaarina Mononen. Press Release Photo by MIKA FEDERLEY.

A recent study indicates that in the everyday life of nursing homes, even brief contact is significant.

The presence of nurses affects the quality and efficiency of nursing, but this requires realigning the perspective to humans, said a press release of University of Helsinki.

Touch has turned out to be an important part of interaction at service centres, and research focused on the topic led Kaarina Mononen to observe how the independence of residents can be supported. Often, touch and the support of independence are intertwined, much like other aspects of interaction.

Mononen’s research, focused on linguistic interaction, is based on a total of 55 hours of video material recorded at a service centre in southern Finland.

The manner in which nurses touch the residents when offering everyday help became a subject of further examination, with ethnographic observation and background interviews as part of the study.

Nurses at service centres touch the residents, for example, to notify them of their presence, to express caring and to support independent activity. According to Mononen, even brief contact carries significance.

“Touching is part of overall communication, conveying kindness and mutual understanding. If speech, hearing or certain other parts of a person’s functional capacity are reduced, touching may compensate for such lost abilities: for instance, a nurse may catch the attention of a resident by touching them.In nursing homes, contact can be extended to the aids used by residents, such as walkers and wheelchairs. Touching an aid can be meaningful and even expressive of closeness. For example, the nurse may guide a resident’s activities by tapping the handle of their walker: "Take a hold of this".

Through everyday interaction between nurses and care home residents, touch becomes part of interaction. Touching is often part of the dialogue conducted with a resident, for example, when guiding them to eat. When nurses are familiar with residents, they also know better whether and how to touch them.

However, no universal manuals on suitable or appropriate touching can be drawn up for nursing homes. The lack of clear guidelines can be annoying or frustrating, but knowing the residents is essential. Establishing a confidential relationship requires familiarity and takes time.