Blog - Care Home Nursing During Covid-19: Don’t Lose Your Touch
Rennie, K. 2020. Care home nursing during Covid-19: Don’t lose your touch. Nursing in Practice [online].
Touch is a human experience which under normal circumstances, we have taken for granted. Touching is regarded as a special type of non-verbal communication and is perhaps the most powerful sense of all, especially for older persons and persons living with dementia. 0No one can deny the warm feeling we experience when we are touched. Hugs, holding hands and other physical gestures of affection have the potential to ease our fears, make us feel less isolated, and reduce stress and anxiety.
However, during this global pandemic, we have all been ruthlessly reminded of the significance of not being able to hug the ones we love or be close to our dearest friends. Many have spent weeks and months with no physical contact with another person and have really experienced how a lack of touch can affect overall wellbeing. During Covid-19, I saw a team of healthcare workers (nurses, carers, GPS’s) and other care home staff (activity co-ordinators, housekeepers, chefs, administrators) rally together to enhance the wellbeing of the residents living in the care home. As much as we need to celebrate the togetherness that many experienced, as well as the courageousness and determination of front-line workers, we also need to use this opportunity as a vital learning curve and a way to develop person-centred practice.
Reflecting on the chaotic times caused by covid-19, there was huge press attention on the detrimental effects that covid-19 had on care homes with staggering mortality rates. As much as this is serious and was documented widely (and rightly so!), I noticed other negative effects that covid-19 had on persons living in care homes. Many older persons experienced something that can be have a serious effect on their wellbeing: a lack of human touch!
The significance of therapeutic touch has been a key element in the person-centred movement. In the article below, I argued that touch can help to sustain a positive sense of personhood, relaxation, connection, and reassurance especially during such uncertain times. Therefore, I encouraged nurses and care home cultures not to allow covid-19 to urge us to take two steps back when it comes to therapeutic touch. Most certainly, we need to keep safe, follow the correct local and national guidance, and maintain safe infection control practices, but this should not be an excuse for us to return to task orientated touch.