As dementia progresses, it is vital to appreciate the changes in a person’s ability to be able to connect. One critical element that is often missed when trying to share information is the value of changing our delivery process. Dementia care pioneer Teepa Snow developed the hand-under-hand technique, as a guiding and assisting technique that provides family members and caregivers with an amazing connection. It promotes a physical touch connection that is friendly, comforting and attention-getting without being intrusive or overbearing.
It also provides a system of feedback and communication between the a loved one living with dementia, and a caregiver. Hand-in-hand uses the much practiced and automatic connection between the eye and hand to form a closed circuit between the person who is struggling to understand words and tasks and the care partner. It provides a comforting and calming human connection using a familiar grasp and proprioceptive (deep pressure) in the palm at the base of the thumb.
This eye-hand connection is one of the very first sensory-motor loops established in infants is used endlessly throughout our lives. By using the palmer surface of the hand, and taking the person through the desire motion or movement, we are communicating with touch and movement, without the need for words.
It’s also important and helpful to position yourself below the eye level of the person with dementia. If you do only these two simple things (get down and use Hand Under Hand), life will be much easier on everyone. Guaranteed.
Remember: the purpose is to control the situation, not the person. Dementia care partners are in the process together: always do whatever you can to respect the independence, rights and dignity of the person with dementia.
The use of hand-under-hand is multi-faceted:
- It is used when greeting someone to sustain a physical connection, allowing the person to become more comfortable with your presence in their intimate space. It differs from a normal handshake that can be uncomfortable to sustain. By having a hand-under-hand rap, you will be able to tell if the person is enjoying your presence and wants you to allow them more space. If they keep trying to let go you, let go and move back further. They may need a break or may not you in their intimate space (within arms reach) at that moment.
- It can be used when helping your loved one move around. It provides greater stability and support as well as a feedback loop.
- Since the arm is the rudder that guides the ship, by rotating the foreman outward or inward you can direct the walking path.
- By tipping the forearm down you can indicate physically the cue to sit down in a seat or on the bed.
- By tipping the forearm upward you can help the person stand upright.
When used in combination with a gesture or point, it can help provide directions and reassurance when moving through the environment in the later stages, or when in an unfamiliar setting. Because a family member or caregiver is close to the person, the awareness of balance, coordination, fear, or distress is telegraphed can be responded to in a timely manner.
- Hand-under-hand is essential during the Amber, Ruby, and Pearl gem stages. It allows you to use their dexterity to operate the tool or utensil while your loved one is still actively participating and moving their body parts toward their body (hand to mouth, hand to chest) as they have done for their entire lives. This automatic loop allows people living with dementia a sense of both control and involvement.
Finally, it provides the caregiver or family member a way to get feedback on preferences, understanding, readiness and willingness to participate. It provides a way to do with, not to do or do for.
In the video below, Snow demonstrates how to use Hand Under Hand™ as part of the process of helping someone to bathe. But Hand Under Hand™ can be used in multiple ways: to help someone to eat, to walk, or even to calm down in a crisis.
NursePartners is committed to providing uncompromised care to those living with a diagnosis of Dementia. Our CarePartners are trained in the GEM Level Approach, and work with each family to enable safety, comfortability and happiness through home-care services.
If your loved one need home care assistance or relief, our team would love to help.