Gerald Vest: Our Touch Program with Alzheimer Residents    
 Our Touch Program with Alzheimer Residents5 comments
picture14 Mar 2007 @ 22:00, by Gerald Vest

As Dr. Luce says, it is not the years themselves that diminish us. It is the way we have learned to live them, giving up a little of our true selves at each step. In our culture we lack a tradition of self-development for the elderly: what we have instead is a tradition of not-so-benign neglect and uselessness. This is supported by the established mythology relating to aging. (p.203, Growing Young, Ashley Montagu)

This is an update on our teams in southern New Mexico and west Texas who are giving our 15-Minute StressOut Program in health clinics and nursing homes regularly. Two of our team leaders from our New Mexico State University, Social Work with Elders Class report on our "StressOut Forum" on their recent experiences introducing our program in nursing homes with Alzheimer residents.

I am so very proud of our students, seniors, nursing faculty and the staff of nursing homes for their courage in giving safe, skillful and nourishing touch with their residents and in our health clinics. As we know, touch has been forbidden in most education, health and human service programs for fear of abuse issues, but our program is given openly with large groups receiving it, so there is no possibility of anyone straying from our guidelines.


You and I have talked, and we know where we each stand on things. Whatever minor differences we may have on certain issues, I gotta hand it to you -- your Stress-Out program is a huge success at Good Samaritan. Today, we (Sharieffa, Robin, Marybeth, Crystal, you and I) did the massage with a small group of Alzheimer's residents in the Special Care Unit (SCU).

Later in the day, after you guys had gone, the head of the SCU came up to me, totally unsolicited, and asked if we could do that on a very regular basis (maybe every week). She had been a bit skeptical last week, but today she said she was amazed at the results, and that she had never seen all of them so calm at this point in the day.

Also, the Activities Director for the rest of the Good Sam population has already scheduled another Stress-Out for this Wednesday; I almost didn't find out. She said she was so impressed with the results from last time, that she also wants to make it a regular thing, using the girls that work with her, and any certified person who wants to come help.

So anyway, this will clearly be a lot more than just once a month as originally planned. I'd like to invite anyone from class to come help out on Stress-Out days (I'll let the class know when they're happening. One is this Wednesday.)

Also, I know you left the music CD with me, but they were still playing it hours later in the SCU, and I was told by the head of the unit that she kept it on because she felt it had a very beneficial, calming effect on the residents. So, I just let them keep it!


Linda Schaberg, RN, is instructor for our New Mexico State University,
community health nursing class
that provides "stressouts" in our city of Las Cruces diabetic clinics and offers training programs for seniors and care-givers to learn how to give our chair type massage. Linda responds to Seth's message and this research article:

I am happy to read this article because I can see that researchers are starting to listen to others about the subject of touch. Here is America we have gotten so far away from touching others that we are now probably the most untouched society on the face of the earth. I have always believed in the power of touch and what it can do for someone who is hurting, sad, lonely, and deteriorating in a nursing home environment. We have gotten to the point that we cannot touch children or someone will say we are molesting them. It is my hope that we who are in favor and excited about the power of touch can turn America back to when it was ok to hug a child, and touch someone without there being some hidden meaning behind the touch. I believe this will lessen sickness, loneliness, will ease pain and promote healing in a way that has never before been seen in the medical profession. With the researchers and the medical profession recognizing the power of touch perhaps we can return healing touch to the healthcare profession where it can be utilized by those who are the recipients as well as those who will be providing it.

Thank you so much for what you are teaching us about the power of touch and how it can be used to promote well care instead of the sick care we have been dealing with for so long.


Just when we think it can't get any better, Cat, our team leader for the Alamogordo, NM stressout team, shares her team experience with giving our program with Alzheimer residents in this community:

The elders and the employees at Casa Arena (in Alamo) are also very responsive to the Stress-Outs. I have to admit, in the beginning, I was a little skeptical about the impact that we would have on the individuals that we would be working with. It’s hard to believe, but I immediately saw the positive impact that we had and could potentially continue to have in the future. The experience that opened my eyes was real encouraging for me.

I was working with one woman, Ms. Anita (an Alzheimer patient), and I was trying to engage her in some friendly conversation, but she wasn’t responsive. In fact she specifically said, “I just want to relax.” So I respected her wishes and continued with the stress out. But she came around mid-way through. She began telling me of her childhood and how her dad would do wood working when she was a child. I am not sure what triggered such thoughts, but Ms. Anita was definitely happy. She was beaming as she recalled these pleasant thoughts. I know for a fact that it had something to do with the Stress-Outs. It allowed us to gain a connection—through the power of touch. It’s definitely moving to be able to lift the spirits of others and make them feel better.

To my fellow classmates, please continue to keep up the hard work. I know that it is hard with all of the commitments that we have and our busy schedules, but this is of great value for both the giver and the receiver. Our work does not go unnoticed or and it is greatly appreciated. : )


As a global project with the New Civilization Network , we are continuing to advance the use of touch with elders and to serve as a model program for other communities around the world to hook up with us. Together we will help to improve the quality of lives, health and relationships for all those we serve and touch. Do join us. As one of my teachers so aptly put it: "Don't wait for the bus, it may never arrive."

Shortly after posting this log, I received an excellent note from one of our other team leaders in Alomogordo, NM who has been giving 'stressouts' with Altzheimer's patients in nursing homes. This is her experience as she describes it:

Dear Friends,

Alzheimer's is a very sad disease. Just knowing there is no cure and for those who have this dreadful disease no hope for a future. As I have been working in the nursing home giving stress outs to people with Alzheimer's I have become more aware of it's devastating effect on a person.

I know there is no cure but I do believe that the touch we have been giving to those we have been working with has made them feel a little more alive that they did before we started. I saw a lady who had not been talking very much start talking and telling me all about her childhood. She then told another worker all about dancing and having fun. It was good to see her come as alive and alert as she could. She told us that she was having a very good day and that she was very happy. That made us happy as well.

I truly believe that touch can alleviate some of the effects of the disease and can make the remainder of the lives of those with the disease more comfortable and tolerable. It reminds me of the song of years past, "Reach out and touch somebody's hand and make this world a better place if you can". We can and we should!


I only wish that I could post more pictures of our participants, but we don't want to do it without their permission. However, we are now giving over 150 stressouts a week with our elders in nursing homes, health clinics, in-home care and other elder and caregiver programs.

Do visit our homepage for more information about how you can become certified and team member in your community.

15-Minute StressOut Program & Health Forum

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15 Mar 2007 @ 05:12 by a-d : "It is the way
we have learned to live them, giving up a little of our true selves at each step. In our culture we lack a tradition of self-development [for the elderly:] what we have instead is a tradition of not-so-benign neglect and uselessness. This is supported by the established mythology relating to aging. (p.203, Growing Young, Ashley Montagu)
Isn't this awful! Before the Twentieth Century in Scandinavia the "Elderly/ Use-less" knew their Patriotic Duty of Non-War -Times: to go to that Place called "Ätte Stupan" -you could translate it to mean something like: "The Family Ravine" where these people were to throw themselves to their death!.... That was the Elderly Care then. Of course it was horribly cruel and needed to be changed.
Now, the Twentieth Century and Twentyfirst, the Ravine is a little more subtle, but it is still "well & alive" . We in Western Culture do NOT have a natural Place in a Living Loving Community where ALL Babies and The Wisw Ones /"Elderly" have a natural belonging and their important social/PSYCHOLOGICAL/SPIRITUAL part to offer/express/live(out) - other than PAYING DUMPS for the Big Pharmaca!

Remember the Movie: "She Devil" / Roseanne Barr; the Heroinne of the Story, when she took a job at the Golden Years Nursing Home and in secret sabotaged the Home's whole scammish treament; deadening down of its Clients; the Elderly, ;put into the Home by Well-To-Do --BUSY-- (Grown-Up) Children of theirs, so they wouldn't interrupt the hectic chasing of money to pay for the mortgage AND (all) the "Necessary") Toys. She flushed their PILLS down the toilett and took them out on the lawn and they woke up to LIFE again and even started to play socker - or similar, but- becoming really playful, active, enjoying Life -maybe for the first -brief- time in their entire life!

Jerry, these are thee most painful words Humankind will ever have to face: " It is the way we have learned to live them; the years, giving up a little of our true selves at each step.
In our culture we lack a tradition of self-development" -and here I would say NOT JUST for the Elderly, but for most every one! Is it a wonder how & why "aging" is such a Mystery!!!

So... maybe the next step in your (expanded ) Program will be to exchange the Pharmaca to Natural, Immune System replenishing Herbs and introduction of a communal Child Care for the Elderly to handle; to be "Grand-Ma's & Grand-Pa's" to the Kids!
This, btw, was done as an experiment in one of the Western Countries, years ago -with very good results! I don't remember which Country and how big and Official the Experiment was and how long it lasted, but I know it was very much liked and the results both among the kids and the Elderly -of which BOTH parties' only other option was to wither alone- was absolutely fantastic and embraced by everyone as a Life Saver Program! Now the Kids had "Grand Parents" in whose lap they could cuddle and the Elderly had Kids who needed them and appreciated them etc etc -NO END to the Benefits and the Goodness as a result of this experiment!
Maybe -if this would become a Lifestyle again, there wouldn't be that much Alzheimers around!.... Do you know of any statistics on Alh. in Cultures where Extended Family is a way of life?, where family members ; aunties, uncles, cousins etc -indeed ANY human is seen as a Family member- interacting naturally with all the natural/spontaneous touching that goes on in a normal loving family? Do such Societies even know of Alzh'rs dis-ease?  

15 Mar 2007 @ 09:04 by jazzolog : Wonderful Work
How amazing simply being touched by another human being can so profoundly affect us!  

15 Mar 2007 @ 13:31 by jerryvest : Thanks for the great response, Astrid...
It is a special experience to see 30-40 elders wheeled and self driven into the big recreation room in the Good Samaritan nursing home so that they can receive our 'stressout' or chair type massage. I am introduced by the recreation coordinater following her read of the morning newspaper. I offer a brief discussion of our program, remind them to be aware of their breathing and tell them how happy we are to return for another session. I give some special attention to a woman who received my touch in a previous session. She didn't remember me, but she smiled and joined our group. Seth, our senior social work team leader, introduces our other student team members -- Marybeth, Shariffa, Robin (social workers) and Chrytal -- a senior intern in the Health Science Department. We put "Medicine Woman" by Medwyn Goodell in the music system and the residential staff arranged the wheel chairs in a position so that the 3 staff members and 4 interns and I, can follow Seth and my instructions while following our protocol in giving our stressout.

It is pretty remarkable to observe our elders awaken and begin smiling and interacting with us verbally and non-verbally as we administer our touch. The atmosphere in the room can best be described as electric, calming and energetic. Other staff members carrying out their morning routines walk by our open room with soft lights and give us a welcoming smile and friendly gestures.

I notice that the staff members walk up to the participants to invite their interest in participating and give them a big hug while explaining what we are doing with those hard of hearing. Following our session, the participants and givers were presented with bottles of refreshing Gatoraid so that we could flush down any toxins that we may have absorbed.

So, in about an hour or so, we have been able to give our stressouts to everyone who wished to receive our partner massage. The messages by Cat and Seth describe the positive results of the experience after we completed our morning sessions.

Astrid, I will respond to you and Jazz in another message as I must get ready for my morning class at the university. Thank you so much for interacting here as it is a great joy to share our experience with you and others interested in our project.  

16 Mar 2007 @ 17:54 by jerryvest : Astrid you raise such good questions --
"Jerry, these are thee most painful words Humankind will ever have to face: " It is the way we have learned to live them; the years, giving up a little of our true selves at each step. In our culture we lack a tradition of self-development" -and here I would say NOT JUST for the Elderly, but for most every one! Is it a wonder how & why "aging" is such a Mystery!!!"

It seems that early on our children are not introduced or exposed to the importance or value of our elders and the knowledge of their historical contributions that they have made or bring to our society or recognizing the insights they have learned from the challenges that they have experienced throught their lives. Seems to me that our media and movie makers have continued to make our elders look like bafoons and incompetent--and, many are, for sure, but no more than across the spectrum of various ages. However, many of the elders that I know and work with are bright, energetic, respectful of others, care about the future of our nation and our world, and persistently appeal to power brokers to do the right thing by attending to the greatest dangers we face, ever known to humanity.

What I am pointing out is that by putting our elders outside the mainstream of leadership, education, health and public service it is no wonder that as we age, we become insignificant and unrepresented as a group of humans who may know how to solve many of life's problems that we face as a nation and as a world. I'm sure that we can identify many great people like Buckminster Fuller, Ashley Montagu and Margaret Mead, et al.who contributed great knowledge throughout their lives and far into their 80's and 90's.

In a study and symposium on the nature of elders at a Global Gerontological Conference, this statement seems to describe clearly how our elders are viewed today:

"The issue of burden is especially poignant in the economic sphere. Older adults are seen as contributing little, and as being largely dependent on the finances of others. In the US especially, this view has been reinforced by a tendency for the public policy debate to focus on transfers that occur through the Federal Budget, where funding disbursements to the older population have grown disproportionately in recent decades. The result has been a popular traducing of these programs as uncontrolled `welfare transfers'. Older people are viewed as `greedy geezers' who use political power to extract unfair and imprudent levels of benefits for themselves, far in excess of their contributions, at the expense of the vital interests of younger cohorts, and indeed of the social good in general." {link:}

In other words, our elders should be recycled and put into the trash with other waste material because we are taking up too many of the vital resources of our nation. We are accused of taking resources that could be put into our schools, health, and infrastructures. Obviously, we elders are not our greatest treasure along with our children, rather it is more imperative that we build resources for killing and wasting others than it is to protect and secure those who have worked their intire lives to defend and secure the future of next generations.

It is our goal to honor and respect our elders by giving them nourishing touch by demonstrating our love, compassion and deepest respect for them in a time of need.  

16 Mar 2007 @ 19:23 by a-d : "A Man is in his Prime
at the age of 75, no earlier" this was /is Dr Johan Wretman's statement. He was (at least) in the Eighties the most respected and beloved Psychologist in Stockholm, Swe. I adored him and we had a lot of wonderful times discussing thing, penetrating the Darkness and pulling some light into it, during our sessions.
I was always so stunned by this very statement of his. And.... you know.... today I understand exactly what he meant -and.... he was right!!!
ALL that wisdom (things learned through personal experience/"Learned it the hard way" -is another way to put it). The other kind of Wisdom is then represented in the Young who understand to take to Heart what these Elders tell about the Life Experiences; that way the Young don't have to repeat every mistake in order to learn the lesson!....
What is the definition of Insanity?... Well, there's two definitions; both equally accurate and telling: 1) Insanity is to repeat the same thing over & over again AND expect a DIFFERENT outcome!
My comment to that: WHAT is Mankind doing (still) today???...but repeating History , yet expecting a different Outcome! This very truth is what ells me that the Gov.guys & Al, will lose the(ir losing ) Game, rigged for us.

2) To be a danger to Oneself or others. -this is an OFFICIAL definition of Insanity.
( my comment to that is: ) Now, do we know of any such guys?????...... WHAT ARE WE WAITING FOR???
I'm so glad you are not waiting for anything , Jerry. You are DOING Things already!
We all need to work towards this end: let the Light of Wisdom shine with each of its Colors, as it were: in the Elderly and in their Adepts; the Younger ones! Only then can the World /Planet AND Humankind at large be saved from Itself!  

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