Meanings of giving touch in the care of older patients: becoming a valuable person and professional Academic Article uri icon


  • Touch is central to nursing and health care workers frequently touch their patients, consciously or unconsciously in their interactions with them. Most literature has studied touch from a patient perspective, thus inquiry about professionals' experiences are rare. The aim of this study was to illuminate meanings of giving touch in nursing care of older patients. To understand the meaning of lived experiences of giving touch in care of older patients, interviews with 12 health care professionals in northern Sweden were analysed using a phenomenological-hermeneutic approach influenced by the philosophy of Ricoeur. The findings show that giving touch in the care of older patients is a transforming experience, where one suddenly perceives oneself as both a valuable person and professional who no longer powerlessly confronts patients' haunted and disrupted bodies, but who, by means of touch, has gained power to ease this suffering. The experience also transforms the way one regards older patients. Instead of seeing a severely demanding patient suffering from dementia and/or pain, one is able to see the person behind the disease as a human being, like oneself. A relationship described as calm, friendly and humane is created between caregiver and patient when giving touch, a relationship that transcends the moment of touch and influences one's way of caring. This understanding is presented using the theoretical framework of the philosophy of Marcel. Giving touch has the power to shed new light on health care professionals' experiences of caring for older patients suffering from dementia and/or pain, giving them the power to be a valuable person and professional.


publication date

  • July 2003