The Power of Touch in Elder Caregiving

The Power of Touch in Elder Caregiving

When Kay Olson checked her husband, John, age 66, into Lakeview Ranch in Dassel, Minnesota, caregivers greeted both of them with a hug. They immediately helped John into the bathroom, washing him gently. He came out crying what he told Kay were “happy tears.” John, who suffers from dementia, was kicked out of his previous facility for aggressive behavior. He would strike out at staff members, especially if someone tried to back him into a corner to force him to take medicine. That doesn’t happen at Lakeview, where caregivers sit with residents, holding their hands or tucking them into bed at night. Since John’s eyes are often closed and he rarely talks, touch “comforts him and makes him know he’s not alone,” Kay says. Judy Berry, founder of Lakeview Ranch, says touch is an integral component of her care. She is one of many who have seen the positive impacts of touch. A growing body of research is demonstrating the merits of this basic approach.

We’re Wired to Give and Receive Touch

Dacher Keltner, a professor of psychology at the University of California at Berkeley, says, as a species, humans are hardwired to give and receive touch and to benefit from it. He describes how touch triggers the activation of the orbitofrontal cortex and the release of oxytocin and endorphins, the “biological platforms of social connection.” He points to studies that show that massage has the same impact as the antidepressant Prozac, increasing levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin while reducing stress hormone levels.

Touch Can Reduce Symptoms of Illness

Tiffany Field, director of the Touch Research Institute in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Miami School of Medicine, says studies show that touch reduces pain, especially following strokes, and lowers blood pressure. A study she conducted evaluating the effectiveness of massage found significant decreases in Parkinson’s tremors. Massage therapy also decreased pacing, wandering, and combative behavior, symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Field says that many elderly patients are deprived of touch, having lost spouses, and “a lot of illnesses of the elderly may relate to their being touch deprived.”

A 2012 study in Supportive Care in Cancer showed that cancer patients, after being given a massage by their caregivers, reported reductions in pain, stress, nausea, fatigue, anxiety, and depression. “When you reduce stress and provide relaxation, all the symptoms are reduced,” says William Collinge, an author of the study. Massages also empower caregivers by providing them with a concrete way to help their loved ones, says Collinge. He says his is the first completely online caregiver education program of its kind and allows anyone to be easily trained to give an effective massage.

How to Provide the Best Use of Touch When Caregiving

Touch can be more difficult when adult children need to parent their parents, assisting with dressing them or taking them to the bathroom. Judy Berry suggests validating emotions on both ends, saying something like, “I know this is uncomfortable for both of us, but we’ll get through this together.” It’s important to recognize that not everybody is up for these tasks, and adult children should ask for help when it becomes insurmountable.

Ask permission. Say, “Can I give you a hug?” That gives the senior a sense of control and doesn’t violate their personal space, says Berry. Then, read their body language along the way to make sure they’re enjoying the experience.

Assess the senior’s nature. Some are more receptive to touch than others. Look for signs. If they recoil when you reach for their hand, don’t be insistent.

Keep it simple. The act of touch need not involve a professional-caliber massage. It can be as basic as giving a hand massage with scented lotion, says Drew.

Be passive, not aggressive. Drew suggests extending your hand and letting them take it, instead of grabbing theirs. Look them in the eye. Approach them from the front instead of behind. “All of those things help to respect the other person and let them know that they’re going to be encountering you,” she says.

By Julie Halpert, Contributor

Frustration with Rising Cost of In-Home Care Inspires Founding of Hallmark Homecare

Frustration with Rising Cost of In-Home Care Inspires Founding of Hallmark Homecare

Homecare Franchise Concept Cuts Costs and Provides High Quality Care to Growing Elder Population

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nevada (April 9, 2018)Hallmark Homecare, a nationwide referral service with a network of care coordinators matching elderly clients with the right caregivers, is increasing affordable in-home care options for the elderly as the aging population grows. Founder Steve Everhart realized the need several years ago after founding and serving as President of The Senior’s Choice, the nation’s largest and most recognizable membership network of senior care providers.

The elderly population in America is projected to more than double to over 98 million people by 2060. This growing population, which is currently made up of the large Baby Boomer generation, is also choosing to age at home rather than in nursing homes or care facilities. But, family members are becoming less likely to care for aging loved ones due to smaller families and more geographic scattering. Compounding the challenge families face in caring for their elderly loved ones is the rapidly increasing hourly rates charged by senior care agencies. The increased cost is due government regulation and new labor laws requiring third party care providers to pay caregivers overtime. These laws, in most states, do not apply to Hallmark’s direct hire model of care, which creates a far more affordable option for clients and their families. Hallmark is still able to provide high-quality care without losing the benefits of thoroughly vetted, experienced and insured caregivers.

Everhart, a successful entrepreneur who has built several other businesses, was inspired by his grandmother’s struggle to stay alive outside of her home. He founded The Senior’s Choice as a solution to this problem for other seniors in similar situations. When it became apparent that Everhart’s grandmother could no longer function on her own, the family decided to move her into a high-end, highly recommended care facility despite her objections. She wanted to stay in the home that she had lived in for decades and referred to as her “little bit of heaven.” Unfortunately, Everhart’s grandmother passed away not long after her move.

Moved by his love for his grandmother, the loss of his parents and desire for more seniors to have more affordable care options to age at home, Everhart established Hallmark Homecare in 2012.

“I was so close with my grandmother and parents; as the primary family caregiver along with my wife, it was difficult to see them move out of the homes they loved so much,” said Everhart. “I saw how their spirits shifted almost immediately. I became determined to develop a better way that benefits both the client and their family. It was very important for me to create a model that cuts costs without compromising on service.”

Hallmark Homecare is a referral agency that connects families with care coordinators and recruiters who search for the best suited in-home caregivers for families and their aging loved ones. Hallmark Homecare facilitates the hiring by the families. Families are able to hire the caregivers directly and have more voice in the care decisions. This cuts out the agency middleman and costs, saving families 30 percent or more compared to an agency-based homecare model.


Founded in 2012, Hallmark Homecare is a referral agency providing a network of care coordinators catering to the home care client segment that prefers to directly hire their caregivers rather than engage an agency. Hallmark Homecare was created by Steve Everhart, founder of The Senior’s Choice, the largest and most recognizable membership network of senior care providers in the world. Utilizing resources provided by The Senior’s Choice, Hallmark Homecare is an in-home care option that brings affordability to elderly clients and their families and ensures a legal caregiver by providing insurance and taxation compliance previously unavailable at a lower price point. For more information, visit For franchise information, visit or call (888) 519-2500.

Nutrition is Important at Every Age

Nutrition is Important at Every Age

Nutrition plays an essential role in maintaining the health of seniors. Inadequate nutrition results from poor quality food choices and/or inadequate calories, both which can contribute to low energy, muscle loss, malnutrition, and obesity.

As we age, it’s common to have a reduced appetite. Your sense of taste and smell may also diminish which often leads to eating less. Although reducing caloric intake as your physical activity level declines is appropriate, you need be sure to get enough calories and nutrients to maintain healthy bones, muscles, and organs. Even if your daily calories match your activity level, calories from processed foods are lacking in nutrition and contribute to both obesity and malnutrition. You actually can be overweight and malnourished! So, limit foods that are high in processed sugars, saturated and trans fats, and salt. Instead, choose nutrient dense foods that will help you to stay energized and fit.

Even if you don’t feel thirsty, getting plenty of water to stay well hydrated is vital to maintaining healthy brain and organ function as well reducing the incidence of constipation. Be sure your fluid intake averages half your body weight in ounces.

Protein is a key nutrient for elderly adults to improve muscle health, help maintain energy balance, weight management, and cardiovascular function. A majority of seniors require more protein than when they were young. Although protein is important, be careful to not overeat protein which can contribute to kidney issues, gout, increased fat mass, and more. Talk to a licensed nutritionist or a doctor to know what’s best for you. Some high-quality protein options are:

  • Legumes— beans, lentils, peas
  • Lean animal protein—chicken, turkey, fish, limited beef
  • Eggs
  • Limited dairy (avoid if it causes GI issues)
  • 100% Nut butter

For a healthy digestive system and to avoid constipation and other problems, include fiber-rich foods at every meal. Soluble fiber is especially important for maintaining healthy cholesterol levels. Good sources of fiber include:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Beans and lentils
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Oats and oat bran
  • Whole grains

Focus on filling your plate with vegetables, both raw and cooked. These foods are packed with vitamins and minerals necessary for a well-functioning body. Frozen fruit and vegetables without any added sugars or preservatives are a great option if spoilage is an issue. When preparing vegetables avoid unhealthy ingredients such as vegetable/corn oil and excess salt.

We often think of fat as unhealthy but it’s important for cellular and brain health, energy, hormones, and neurotransmitters.  Healthy fats include:

  • Avocados
  • Coconut
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Olives/extra-virgin olive oil

Healthy eating is important throughout your entire life; don’t let age be an excuse to eat junk. Remember that food is fuel and supplying your body with the best nutrient-rich fuel helps you prevent or manage chronic health conditions. It can also help you feel stronger and energized, allowing you to enjoy the golden years of your life.

Contributed by:
Marcy Kirshenbaum
Enhance Nutrition