A study of hand massage at two Midwestern nursing homes evaluated the effects of this touch protocol on patient comfort and satisfaction. Although no significant differences were observed at the end of the five-week study period, significant group differences were found for both comfort and satisfaction when measured at specific times.

“Effects of Hand Massage on Comfort of Nursing Home Residents” studied a total of 60 subjects from two Midwestern nursing facilities.

The treatment group consisted of 35 participants who received hand massage. The remaining 25 participants composed a control group. A certified massotherapist (massage therapist) trained nursing assistants, nursing students and research team members to perform the hand massage. Each hand massage was performed from five to eight minutes; consisted of slow stroke, kneading, friction, caring touch, or a combination of these; and all strokes were repeated three times. This series of stroke types was used on both the palmar and dorsal sides of the hands and wrists.

Comfort was defined as the immediate state of being strengthened through having needs for relief, ease and transcendence addressed in four domains: physical, psychospiritual, sociocultural and environmental. Comfort was measured using the General Comfort Questionnaire. Satisfaction with care was defined as the person’s perception of being content with the overall care received, and this variable was measured using a single question to the subject and registering the answer on a six-point continuum.

Two and a half weeks into the study, the treatment group showed a significantly higher increase in comfort than did the control group. But by the end of the study no significant difference in comfort was found between the two groups. Satisfaction with care was significantly higher in both groups at the end of the five-week study, although the treatment group indicated a greater increase in satisfaction overall.

The authors speculate that the social interactions between the data collectors and the residents may have contributed to the increased satisfaction in both study groups. However, they conclude that hand massage is easily learned, provides comforting effects within a short period of time, and that it “can be a valuable tool [in] usual care routines and even used with residents by family members and friends.”

Source: Miami Valley Gerontological Council, Dayton, Ohio. Authors: Katharine Kolcaba, Ph.D., R.N.,  Victoria Schirm, Ph.D., R.N.; Richard Steiner, Ph.D.. Originally published in Geriatric Nursing, Vol. 27, No. 2, January–February 2006, pp. 85–91.