There may be no words that can make an elderly or ill person feel better, but your touch can make them feel that you care in a way that words and deeds do not. A hug, pat on the shoulder or holding their hand can bring great solace. It may provide the encouragement needed to complete a difficult task or just get through a gloomy hour. After a long, close marriage filled with physical affection, a widow may go for weeks, even months, without being touched by another person. One reason that pets raise our spirits is that we touch them and they nuzzle back. When talking about her husband and explaining why she loves him, a young woman gives an example that whenever he is in the room with his grandmother, he holds her hand. That kind of touching does not come naturally to everyone, but when it does it can compete with most of the medicine that elderly people receive!

Perhaps the lack of touch is one reason the elderly often ask to take someone's arm. They are not only concerned about falling; they enjoy the sense of physical closeness to another person, and it's an acceptable way to ask for it. If you are not comfortable just sitting and holding someone's hand, try touching their back when they go through a door or just touching their hand when you greet them and say goodbye.

Trying to think of a gift that might make a difference? Give a massage, a manicure or a pedicure. The greatest value may not be in the grooming but the touch. Or give a certificate to have these services performed. While not the hands of a friend or loved one, the touch is still valuable, not quite so personal but touch just the same.

About the authors: Fourteen girlhood friends now grown to middle age and facing an assortment of caretaking responsibilities collaborated to write this book about the challenge of caring for their elderly parents. The fourteen authors include a neurologist, a psychiatric nurse practitioner, an accountant, an artist, a counselor, educators and businesswomen.

Fourteen Friends
(back to top)

  • Joan Hunter Cooper, Dallas, Texas
  • Judy Fulton Guerin, Paradise Valley, Arizona
  • Joan Berkey Loftis, Arlington, Virginia
  • Alice Beckley MacDonald, Herndon, Virginia
  • Judy Sherwood McLeod, Charlottesville, Virginia
  • Beth Sanders Milner, Middleburg, Virginia
  • Lee Lambie Pope, Point Pleasant, New Jersey
  • Anne Smith Roadman, Washington, D.C.
  • Linda Gilbertson Rogers, Arlington, Virginia
  • Karen Wulfsberg Strother, Lone Tree, Colorado
  • Karen Kelley Thalinger, MD, Ponte Vedra, Florida
  • Linda Staley Veatch, Oakton, Virginia
  • Brenda Jones Viereg, Fairfax, Virginia
  • Carol Cummings Warner, Washington, D.C.

more from beliefnet and our partners
Close Ad