Friday 3 March 2017

The Ancient Wizardry of Caregiver 'Touch'

When Nick was very small and I was cutting my teeth as a disability Mom and advocate, I went to my first family caregiving conference. Two days in another city was respite for me - Jim looked after Nick at home during my short stay away. But some parents brought their small children to the conference. During a presentation by a government minister who was responsible for preschool education, a toddler with cerebral began to cry. All eyes turned to the Mom and her little boy. A white haired preschool teacher offered to take the child so his Mom could relax and listen to the speech. We all watched as this teacher gentled the child's stiff limbs into a comfortable and relaxed position in her arms. He quieted almost immediately. I remember the young mother blowing a thank you kiss to the older teacher.

The government minister paused and looked at the audience. He said, "Did you see that? That is 'the touch'. There are heroes of child rearing in this room", he said, "who have 'the touch' and we have just witnessed one."

Over the years, I've watched and learned from all kinds of wizards skilled in 'the touch'. Some were doctors, some nurses and many were family caregivers or personal support workers. All of them combined kindness with soothing action, creating a kind of alchemy of healing.

Recently, my Mom moved in to a new residence. I realised immediately that I was about to embark on a new journey of learning more about the touch and how it works with seniors. Commitment to deep respect and affection for elders in their care is the ethic of this residence, and it shows.

In eldercare, balancing older peoples' personal freedom with support is tricky. Too many times I have witnessed seniors being treated like pre-schoolers or worse. And the same is true of disability care. I've blogged about that topic previously HERE.

But Mom's best caregivers know how to cajole, soothe, and they know how tell stories as well as listen intently. They serve as invisible helpers making her needs seem less than they are. These clever helpers present the best of my Mom to the world every day. They are the keepers of wisdom in our society; they have 'the touch'.

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