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Japanese caregivers' breakthrough in helping the elderly
'Humanitude' method emphasizes eye contact, touch, talk and respect
- Sawako Obara for Japan Times
- November 21, 2013
Humanitude, a caregiving method developed in France that emphasizes eye contact, touch and verbal communication to convey respect for the patient as a human being, is gaining attention in Japan for treating patients with dementia.
Tokyo Medical Center in Meguro Ward, one of the hospitals adopting the Humanitude method, provides seminars for caregivers to expand its use.
In a videotape shown at one such seminar, two nurses took a female patient with dementia to a shower. One nurse approached the woman from the front, looked at her at eye level and kept speaking to her gently while the other nurse washed her body with warm water.
The woman in her 70s, who was said to have screamed and refused to take a shower, was cooperative and remained calm, and even said that “the water temperature feels good.”
The approach, with its name deriving from “human” and “attitude,” was developed about 30 years ago by Yves Gineste, who taught physical education, and his colleagues based on the philosophy of “what is humanity.”
The four basic pillars in the method are to look into the eyes of the patients, talk to, touch and help them stand upright.
More specifically, particularly for elderly people with dementia, this means approaching from the front to avoid startling the patients, who tend to have a narrow range of vision; looking at them at eye level; telling them the procedures being conducted even if there is no response; avoiding gripping the patients’ wrists from above; and helping them stand upright or walk.
There were remarkable scenes in the videotape that were taken in February last year when Gineste visited Tokyo Medical Center.
He took care of a female patient in her 80s who had been unable to speak and was bedridden for half a year with crooked joints. While gently talking to her through an interpreter he helped her with personal care. After about one hour, she stretched her arms and legs by herself, and even said, “Thank you.”