Do you have residents in the nursing home who are sensitive to certain touch or to tight-fitting clothes?

This article is written from the perspective of Swedish conditions. Hopefully, it can be an inspiration for people in other countries.

There are people who are extra sensitive. Their senses give stronger impressions than ours. In a nursing home where many are dependent on help to function in everyday life, this can be painful if the staff does not understand what it's about. The person who suffers from high sensitivity may need extra time and support from colleagues. Sometimes, time to adjust can also be good. Providing care to a highly sensitive person requires patience, understanding, and compassion. By following these tips and advice, you can help the highly sensitive person feel safe and cared for, which in turn promotes their well-being and quality of life.

Foto: Mostphotos

Living with High Sensitivity

Elisabeth was a woman who was cared for in long-term care in the seventies. She had a very difficult time every day when we were to dress her. The hospital clothes that were used at that time were not very comfortable. She felt that the underwear and socks were tight, and that the seams of the women's coats were hard against the skin. No one had heard of highly sensitive people then, but we realized that she was suffering. Every day, those of us who worked had to spend an extra moment finding clothes that would suit her, so that she could feel good.

Individuals with highly sensitive personality (HSP) can also have an advantage in that they often detect moods and risks earlier than others. They notice if a person is sad or tired long before others do. High sensitivity can also be an asset as it is a sensitive talent that means that those who live with it perceive sensory impressions more sharply. There are people who quality assure perfume scent with a well-trained nose or who are good at tuning pianos.

One type of high sensitivity is hyperacusis, sound intolerance. Those affected can be disturbed even by low noises such as the rustle of a newspaper, the murmur in a restaurant, the air conditioning or a chair scraping. Almost every tenth person suffers from this. Even scents can be painful. It can be perfume but also more subtle smells that disturb the peace for people.

Those who are highly sensitive may need more alone time than others to recover. Some also go and ponder for a long time over whether there are implied messages in what someone is saying.

Providing care to a highly sensitive person, tips and advice

High sensitivity is a personality trait that means an individual is more receptive to stimuli and impressions from the environment. This can include sound, light, emotions, and social interactions. When caring for or providing care to a highly sensitive person, whether it is as a relative or as a professional caregiver, there are several important factors to consider. Here are some tips and advice for providing care to a highly sensitive person in a way that promotes their well-being:

Understand High Sensitivity The first step in providing care to a highly sensitive person is to understand what high sensitivity means. Learn about the characteristic traits and how they can affect the highly sensitive individual. This includes increased sensitivity to stimuli, deep and complex emotions, and a tendency to easily get overwhelmed.
Create a Calm Environment For a highly sensitive person, a calm and peaceful environment can be crucial. Try to minimize loud noises, bright lights, and other disturbing stimuli in the environment. Create a space where the highly sensitive person can retreat if they feel overwhelmed.
Listen and Communicate Communication is key when you provide care to a highly sensitive person. Be responsive and actively listen to their needs and desires. Give them the opportunity to express their feelings and thoughts without judging or trying to solve the problems directly.
Respect Boundaries Highly sensitive individuals often have clear boundaries when it comes to their personal space and their emotions. Respect their boundaries and avoid pushing them to do things they are not comfortable with. Give them the opportunity to say no without feeling guilt.
Avoid Overstimulation Try to avoid overstimulating the highly sensitive person. This might mean limiting the number of impressions and activities they participate in. Give them time and space to recover if they have been overwhelmed.
Provide Emotional Support Highly sensitive individuals can experience emotions deeply and intensely. Provide them with support and help in managing their emotions when they need it. This could include offering comfort, listening, or giving them time and space to process their emotions.
Focus on Self-Care Self-care is important for everyone, but especially for highly sensitive people. Encourage the highly sensitive person to take care of themselves by prioritizing sleep, diet, and exercise. This could also include relaxing activities such as meditation or yoga.
Create Structure and Routines Highly sensitive people can benefit from structure and routines in their daily life. Try to create a predictable environment and daily routines that they can rely on.
Avoid Confrontation To avoid unnecessary stress and conflict, avoid confrontation with the highly sensitive person unless it is absolutely necessary. Instead, try to solve problems or discuss difficult topics in a calm and supportive way.

Reflection Question - High Sensitivity
Care staff:
- Do you have anyone in your unit who is HSP?
- Is there anyone who is sensitive to smells, certain spices, disturbing noises, or if there is a lot of running around in the unit?
- Do you have any good way to alleviate the experience for the sensitive person?

Manager, nurse, occupational therapist, and physiotherapist:
- Do you have any resident who is extra sensitive?
- How do you handle the care planning so that the resident can have a good everyday life despite their high sensitivity?
- Do you bring up these issues in connection with team meetings? Do you ask questions about this in connection with moving in?

Resident and relative:
- Does your relative have something they are highly sensitive to?
- Was the question brought up in connection with the move?
- Is it addressed in implementation plans and care plans?

Erland Olsson
Specialist Nurse
Better care every day

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