Therapeutic Touch(®) in a geriatric Palliative Care Unit - A retrospective review

Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2016 Aug;24:134-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2016.06.002. Epub 2016 Jun 21.


Complementary therapies are increasingly used in palliative care as an adjunct to the standard management of symptoms to achieve an overall well-being for patients with malignant and non-malignant terminal illnesses. A Therapeutic Touch Program was introduced to a geriatric Palliative Care Unit (PCU) in October 2010 with two volunteer Therapeutic Touch Practitioners providing treatment.

Objective: To conduct a retrospective review of Therapeutic Touch services provided to patients in an in-patient geriatric palliative care unit in order to understand their responses to Therapeutic Touch.

Methods: A retrospective medical chart review was conducted on both patients who received Therapeutic Touch as well as a random selection of patients who did not receive Therapeutic Touch from October 2010-June 2013. Client characteristics and the Therapeutic Touch Practitioners' observations of the patients' response to treatment were collected and analyzed.

Results: Patients who did not receive Therapeutic Touch tended to have lower admitting Palliative Performance Scale scores, shorter length of stay and were older. Based on a sample of responses provided by patients and observed by the Therapeutic Touch practitioner, the majority of patients receiving treatment achieved a state of relaxation or sleep.

Conclusions: This retrospective chart review suggests that implementation of a TT program for an inpatient geriatric Palliative Care Unit is feasible, and appears to be safe, and well-tolerated. Moreover, patient responses, as recorded in the Therapeutic Touch practitioners' session notes, suggest beneficial effects of Therapeutic Touch for a significant number of participants with no evidence of negative sequelae. Therefore, the use of TT in this difficult setting appears to have potential value as an adjunct or complementary therapy to help patients relax.

Keywords: Complementary; Gerontology; Palliative; Symptoms; Therapy.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Health Services for the Aged*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Palliative Care / methods*
  • Patient Comfort*
  • Program Evaluation*
  • Relaxation
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sleep
  • Terminal Care
  • Therapeutic Touch*