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by | Mar 8, 2018

What is Touch Hunger in the Elderly?


As a family caregiver, you are busy with taking care of the needs of your elderly mom or dad. You do your best to make sure they are clean, dressed, fed and medicated. While all those things are very important, did you remember to give your loved one a hug? If you usually skip that part, your aging parent may be suffering from touch hunger.

A growing body of evidence reveals that many elderly Americans are touch deprived and suffering because of it.

The skin is the largest organ of the body and it is equipped with nerves, receptors, and seniors that transmit everything about our environment to the brain. Research into touch-deprived humans shows that physical and mental health can be severely affected when people are isolated from one another and don’t experience much physical contact. The negative health effects of this deprivation are known as touch deprivation or touch hunger.

So what exactly does touch do for an elderly person’s health and wellness?

Studies show that caring touches help strengthen bonds between people of all ages, such as hugs, kissing, holding hands, back rubs and other gestures of affection and love. Touch can also convey messages of affection, care, and connection. The power of touch is seen in massages as well, where the pressure on the muscles and other soft tissues releases feel-good hormones that flood the body with feelings of contentment and well-being.

Research has revealed that seniors that are in regular physical contact with others have lower blood pressure and lower stress. They are able to tolerate pain better and are less likely to be depressed. Elderly people that are touch hungry are often sicker and see the doctor more often, while those with plenty of physical contact are generally healthier. In fact, positive touch is so beneficial that many doctors and elder care experts recommend geriatric massage for the elderly. Geriatric massage provides the missing physical contact that so many aging adults experience.

Many family caregivers wonder why an elderly person’s need for touch doesn’t fade out over time.

After all, many young adults with young children often report feeling touched out or overstimulated. However as elderly adults reach certain milestones in the last decades of their life, they grow increasingly isolated. Seniors quite often miss out on this basic contact as they age due to limited mobility, busy family members and even losing a spouse.

The bottom line is that if you want your elderly loved one to experience the best health and wellness they can, consider boosting their exposure to therapeutic touch. You are already making sure they are getting a healthy diet and medical attention, so don’t neglect this extremely important component. Remind other family members, elder care aides, friends and others to gently hug the elderly person or pat their hand when talking. They can help your aging mom or dad reach an improved physical and mental state when they share the power of human touch regularly.

Are you or a family member considering Homecare in Sacramento, CA? Talk to the friendly staff at Golden Years In-Home Senior Care. Call us today at 916-333-0383. We are here when you need us!


About the Author, Carrie Ballard:

Golden Years In-Home Senior Care was founded by Ken and Carrie Ballard. Their passion for providing compassionate quality care for seniors began years ago, when they assisted in the operations of their family’s home care facilities. It was there, they realized their life long calling. Even at a young age, they both knew caring for seniors was what they wanted to do.


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