Tuesday, June 28, 2011

How "Mannies for Grannies" is Utilizing the Power of Touch to Aid People with Alzheimer's Disease

In this blog post by 2011 AFA Teens Advisory Board member Lexi Gray, learn about the importance of touch for people with Alzheimer's disease and how she is truly making a difference with her service organization, "Mannies for Grannies." 

The power of touch is a subject that has been studied for decades. Newborns, for example, need human touch because it helps them feel the same sense of security that they felt inside their mothers’ womb. Studies have shown that babies who are not touched can suffer from health problems, including failure to thrive, poor immune systems and even brain damage. Children in orphanages are often not held or touched enough, and are sometimes afflicted with “severe social problems.”  In some extreme cases, children’s deaths have been linked to lack of touch.
These studies are prime examples of how important touch really is to the human race. While not quite as detrimental as the lack of touch for newborns, the need for touch for older adults is very strong as well. Adults are known to lead happier, healthier lives when they receive loving touch from others on a regular basis.
Unfortunately, for people afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease, they often receive too few visitors and limited human interaction. 
Realizing this inspired me to start an organization called “Mannies for Grannies.” Through “Mannies for Grannies,” I take a small group of middle and high school aged girls to a nearby nursing home to give manicures and hand massages to the residents with Alzheimer’s disease.
And although we are not professional manicurists, the residents really do seem to benefit from our visit. I believe this may simply be because they are receiving the attention they need and deserve from others.   So our visits are really not about how great their nails look after we are finished, but instead, it’s about how our visits make the ladies feel on the inside after they have received human interaction and touch.
I know that perhaps the residents do not remember our visits soon after we leave and I know that giving the residents manicures and hand massages will not cure their disease.  However, my hope is that it does enhance their lives in a positive way.
So if someone close to you has Alzheimer’s disease, remember to hug and use touch with them often.  And if you are so inspired, you can also start a service organization that brings the power of touch to those who are often forgotten.
Editor’s Note: For more information on how to “Tap the Power of Touch,” check out the Fall 2010 issue of care ADvantage magazine, AFA’s quarterly publication for caregivers of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and related illnesses.