Energy Healing in Dementia Care

In a September 2002 article in the journal Nursing Older People entitled 'Therapeutic touch in dementia care' authors from the School of Nursing and Midwifery, University of Sheffield, England review "the evidence and current debates relating to the effects of therapeutic touch [a popular form of energy healing] for older people with mental health needs."

The article describes therapeutic touch as follows:

"Therapeutic touch works from a belief that life-force energy is a fundamental force found in all living entities and that this energy flows outside the body. Therapists will centre themselves on the patient and then move their hands over the patient without actually touching. [Note that some energy healing modalities encourage touch and others do not. Even within modalities, such as reiki, some schools encourage touch and others do not.] They will feel various energy sensations coming from the patient and the intention of therapeutic touch is to rebalance that energy.

"It is this element of the technique that has contributed to its notoriety. Many people have found it hard to accept that there could be any benefit in a therapy which relies on practitioners being able to detect changes in the body's energy fields simply by passing hands over the body. Despite this concern in some quarters, it is estimated that there might be as many as 40,000 practitioners of therapeutic touch world-wide (Robinson 2000)."

The following excerpt from the article describes how energy healing enhances the nurse-patient relationship:

"The reputation of the NDU [nurse development unit] for its work with older people with mental health needs is growing and it has a wide portfolio of practice development projects. The unit provides care for older people with organic and functional mental health needs. It has long association with the late Tom Kitwood's philosophy (1997) of person-centered dementia care and this has been central to recent developments within the unit. Dementia care-mapping has been used to gather data on the effectiveness of therapeutic touch with people living with dementia.

"The evidence for the use of therapeutic touch clearly suggests that its use strengthens self-belief on the part of patients and seems to enhance relationships between nurses and patients. The problems of communicating with people living with dementia are well-documented, and the need to develop more creative methods of communicating has been strongly advocated in recent years (Killick 1997).

"The belief that therapeutic touch could create new possibilities for developing relationships with patients engendered a great deal of enthusiasm for its implementation among staff across a range of healthcare disciplines."

The text of this article is available here.