Compassionate Touch (CT) acknowledges that regardless of age or health, the patient is still capable of and in dire need of relationship, even if he or she does not seem to be aware of their circumstances. CT can be given by loved ones or now, more frequently, by a specially trained practitioner who may not know the person, but is trained to bring the connection of one human to another human, especially during illness and dying.
CT practitioners have the heart and specialized training to nuture an individual through touch that is not related to medical care or other care needs, providing loving companionship to the ill or elderly person. They fill in the gaps that family, friends, and other healthcare providers cannot fill for a variety of reasons, such as distance, time, work,family duties, and even awkwardness. These hands-on practitioners have no agenda other than being present in the moment with the person they are with.
"It is a way of relating to a person through the power of human touch to communicate love, trust, affection, warmth, encouragement, and acceptance. It says that the person, right here in this present moment, is important, vital, and is still their true self. The focus is on serving, not providing care, as caregivers do. The goal is to slow things down to help everyone treasure every moment and to bring a sense of peace that says to the recipient, 'you are cared for and about, oju are valuable and you are loved as you are at this very moment', while acknowledging the natural outcomes of life and death, which can be uplifting and rewarding", Janus says.
Unfortunately, the elderly and those living with chronic disease and disability often experience a lack of caring touch. Many receive very little touch at all except during assistance with activities of daily living or when being transferred in and out of bed or a chair.
Research shows that in the elderly, touch deprivation leads to loneliness, helplessness, boredom, withdrawal, depression, repetitive behaviors, restlessness, agitation, and pain, all of which mean more care and more medication for pain and behavior management."A compassionate massage is an act of loving tenderness", Hudson explains. "It is an additional way to say, 'you are important and deeply cared for and I am here with you though it all.' The added benefits of decreasing pain, lowering blood pressure and heart rate, and reducing anxiety, depression, and feelings of isolation, are wonderful but are not the goal. Love and closeness are the goals."
For those in the final stage of life, or of finding their own path to pain management, touch gives the gifts of love, respect, worth, and dignity, and supports quality of life throughout. CT may not be able to change the final outcome, but it can help someone live the best life possible in comfort.