Monday, 30 September 2013


I have been moved and touched more often in the last 10 years of my life than ever before. For this is how long I have had MS.  [For the past 6 years I have been a wheelchair user and handled by carers for washing, dressing etc]  There is a semantic difference here but actually it is one and the same thing i.e. to be moved and touched physically and emotionally. The English language is very revealing as we use the same words for both 

Touch can of course be very therapeutic in the hands of certain people :a good masseur, a healer who may undertake a laying on of hands, a reflexologist or a physiotherapist (both of these excellent therapies are of course available at the MS Centre from highly trained people)  Carers would do well to remember the eloquence of touch which can carry a myriad of words and feelings with it .  After all a simple touch can mean  'I love you' or ‘goodbye’ or ‘I want to help you'.  This ‘language of touch’ is unlikely to be adequately covered in any moving and handling training but it is important for them to be aware of nevertheless.

In this way when carers handle me in the nursing home where I live, I get a whole bunch of messages from them of which they are perhaps unaware.  These vary from 'I got up late for work this morning and I have been in a rush ever since' to 'I am dog tired and would rather be anywhere else but here right now'.  Depending on how a carer handles you, simply getting dressed for the day can make you feel like a useless and inert sack of potatoes, or a vibrant and useful person who is ready to face another day.  The quality of the touch is all important.  The intention behind it is key.  Carers do not intend to cause any distress, but in a nursing home they are often forced by the busyness of their jobs to be more rushed than they would perhaps like.  Regrettably it is not possible to get 23 people up and dressed during a morning, and handle them all in such a way that they feel fantastic about themselves.  These negative interactions, however, have the power to make me feel quite low at times.

Personally speaking my favourite kind of touch comes from the physiotherapists at the Centre.  This is because it is respectful, professional, caring, compassionate, gentle and all this with a practical purpose in mind.   I wish all my carers had this kind of approach to their touch while handling people but sadly it is not the case.  I also wish that it was not necessary for those carers to wear plastic gloves all the time.  Of course I appreciate the practical reasons for this Ie infection control, and that it is done to protect me,  But I do wish I was able to experience the comfort of human touch without the barrier of silicone in between.

Because it can be a very comforting thing: the touch of one human being to another.  Such a simple thing and not much to ask for, you would think.  But how wrong you would be: we seem to avoid the need to touch one another at any cost. Perhaps this is to do with deep subconscious worries; fear of invading someone’s personal space, fear of being accused of inappropriate sexual behaviour.  Or maybe it is purely a very British thing; our Mediterranean cousins do not seem to share these Inhibitions.  People in Italy Spain France and Greece 3ouch each other far more freely than we do.  Frequently when I am at the theatre or cinema people will not sit directly next to me.  I am convinced that this is a subconscious fear that they might catch whatever I have. I am sometimes tempted to shout at the top of my voice when I enter a room full of strangers in my wheelchair, 'Don't worry it's not catching!'

In short I wish we lived in a world where disabled people (who are sometimes quite lonely) would be positively touched by human hand much more often. This would feel very 'healing' and comforting I think. I believe we do not touch one another enough (I am not talking about sexual contact here).  And I believe that the power of human touch can be very powerful. Sadly many of the therapies which offer this eg massage, reflexology and physiotherapy can be quite expensive but those of us with MS can luckily experience most of these free of charge at our wonderful Centre. If you have not tried them yet then why not give it a go? After all, you have absolutely nothing to lose and potentially a lot to gain.

October 2013

No comments:

Post a Comment