The Power of Touch
Michelangelo said, “To touch can be to give life.” Touch has been shown to have a calming effect and build stronger immune systems. It reinforces reciprocity and gives the brain signals of safety and trust. Touch has even been attributed to giving NBA basketball teams an advantage (Michael W. Kraus, 2010). Touch activates the prefrontal cortex of the brain linking it to feelings of reward and releases the hormone oxytocin also known as “the love hormone.”
Safety is always the priority; however, the toll will likely take years to understand in terms of the impact of restricted visitation on the mental and physical wellbeing of senior living residents. Constant changes in guidelines from surfaces to visitation, screening and wearing masks has been challenging for residents, families and staff. The operators tasked with managing through the maze have been stressed, but community leaders have risen to the occasion and demonstrated a deep commitment to serving, learning, and protecting residents and associates while still delivering on the promise to understand, act, improve and be generous in spirit.
Inspired Living has positioned itself as an innovative organization and encourages compassion and creativity in solving everyday challenges. When the outbreak started, leaders were tasked to engage families who expressed desire to help and challenged to also support associates. The leadership in Texas introduced the idea, “Feed the Front Line,” where Inspired Living Families were invited to donate food to communities who set up pantries for associates, saving them precious time, money, and unnecessary exposure. Inspired Living Ivy Ridge challenged the corporate support team to kick off their food drive and C.E.O. Steve Benjamin did not disappoint, personally delivering groceries to the team.
This experience has highlighted the value of essential workers and appreciation for simplicities like toilet paper or disinfectant wipes among other items. For most of us, missing a hair appointment was inconvenient, but many seniors consider their weekly hair appointment vital. Most communities outsource salon services, so appointments are prohibited. But Inspired Living Ivy Ridge’s Resident Programming Director, Sherri D., is a licensed beautician and did not miss a beat, carefully grooming residents and providing them (now) luxuries of a refreshing cut and style and a sense of normalcy.
As the pandemic extended into May, Leslie E., Executive Director of Inspired Living Ivy Ridge, realized she had not hugged her own mom in almost three months and consequently her residents were missing the loving touch of their families. Leslie said, “I realized, I could help, and the residents should not wait any longer to hug their families.”
Leslie went to work with her team and built the company’s first “hug booth.” The booth is made of wood and heavy-duty plastic. Leslie was careful to design the slits to allow for sitting and or holding hands and carefully crafted the protective tape to avoid scratching or scraping. Once the booth was designed and built, her team decorated it. The only thing left was finding large “veterinarian” sleeves, used for birthing calves, to protect clothing and skin contact. Once the sleeves arrived, Leslie “tested” the booth by hugging her mom. “My mom was delighted, and it felt great.”
With the hug challenge “tackled” (no pun intended), Inspired Living Ivy Ridge Families are actively appreciating the simple but profound opportunity to hug their loved one. Although the results are not scientific – Leslie says the “hug booth” is a tremendous success! “I am happy to report 100% of the residents and families who have ‘hugged,’ -state they feel better and are glad they had the opportunity.”