I was asked to set up a clinic at a retirement residence. The new administration wanted the foot care needs of their residents addressed.
I’m always a little nervous when I go into a facility for the first time. I don’t know the staff, the residents, the routine. On this first day, as I entered the clinic room ahead of schedule, there was already a line-up waiting for me. I quickly greeted everyone and started setting up. The group watched my every move. It was going to be a long afternoon.
The difference between seeing a patient in clinic and seeing them in their home is time. When there’s a room of people waiting in clinic, I can’t spend as much time with a person as I’d like or as they need. But you do your best, right? And no matter what, everyone gets a quick foot rub.
What sticks out most in my mind about that first clinic was how thankful everyone was. From the looks of things, a number of residents had not received any nursing foot care in a very long time. The administrator told me later that patients were “raving” that they had never been treated so well. I’m sure part of it was the actual nursing procedure, but I strongly suspect that gently touching them in the form of a foot rub had much to do with their reaction. Everyone needs to be touched and I think that a number of my patients that day had not been touched recently.
Touch is important. I don’t mean sexually charged touch, just friendly, gentle touch that says “I care.” The dermis layer of our skin houses thousands of nerve endings that respond well to gentle touching. Research shows that this adds to our feeling of well- being.
The patient population I deal with doesn’t get enough touching. Many are widowed, alone, lonely, sick, invisible – an ignored population. A great many of them spend their days alone in solitude, with very little human interaction. But it’s not just the elderly who need to be touched. We all need to know that we are cared for, that we matter to others, that we are loved and appreciated.
While I wouldn’t recommend taking off a person’s socks and shoes and rubbing their feet unless you do what I do for a living, or unless you know the person really well, there are other ways to touch. Most of us respond well to non-sexual, non-aggressive, non-obtrusive, gentle touch on the hand, arm, shoulder. It says, “hello,” “I care,” “I’m glad you’re my friend,” “I will be here for you.”