The holidays are here. Time for family traditions and remembering happy holiday memories. Unfortunately, many of our residents no longer have family to help them do this. This is one area their CNAs step in.
A simple yet powerful gesture this season is touch. I’ve never been a hugger. Of course, that doesn’t mean I don’t because you can’t stop some people from hugging you. So, I never understood the importance of another person’s touch. I am not talking about intimate touch, but just everyday touch.
At work I would hug my residents or walk arm in arm. I got out of my comfort zone for them. I did it because it made them smile or helped comfort them when they were crying. We stepped in at Christmas for that head on our shoulder, listening to old memories.
This is what CNAs do every day. Then Covid hit. We all remember the 6 feet rule, the no touching rule. At first it didn’t bother me. I was one of the few that these rules calmed my anxiety for a while. My residents did not do well with this especially around the holidays. I knew humans needed physical touch, but I did not know what happened when you took it away.
I watched my resident’s decline as all CNAs did. They got depressed and self-isolated. Their anxiety went up while their health went down. This was not ok. We CNAs saw this with all our residents. The power of touch is amazing and essential. It provides comfort, love, and interaction. It’s basic psychology.
An article in Dignity Health states touching can release Oxytocin that stimulates the release of other hormones like Dopamine and Serotonin. So, what does this do for our residents? It lowers their stress and blood pressure. It helps reduce their anxiety and pain. Most importantly, it makes them happy and you get to see that smile. By seeing this I realized I was a hugger after all. I was feeling the same way they were.
We were all affected by being isolated during Covid, but it taught us an important lesson. The importance of touch between a CNA and their resident. So let us never forget this and let it happen again. This time of year is special. Make an extra effort to hug your residents. Hold their hands while they tell you stories. For so many, a CNA is going to be their family this Christmas so remember the power of a CNAs touch. These little things can improve their happiness and their health. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!