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Reiki and the Dementia Patient | Love Your Nursing Life | Bobbi McCarthy

She kept calling out repeatedly for help, with a loud, shrill, shaky voice. “HELP, HELP, HELP, HELP….” I could not comfort her or reassure her that she was okay, nor could I get her to stop yelling for help. The staff was getting weary and the other patients thought we were killing her…that fragile little 98 year old women with dementia in room 8.

Reiki and the Dementia Patient
Photo: Leroy Skalstad

She came to our ER from a nursing home with the complaint of, “she won’t stop yelling for help and this is not her normal behavior.” We worked her up for altered mental status—and none of the tests revealed a reason for her behavior change.

I tried everything to calm her; I dimmed the lights, I sat and held her hand, I turned the TV on and then off, I repositioned her repeatedly and called her
daughter (who was in Florida). The morning rolled on and she kept yelling. The ER traffic flow subsided somewhat and an opportunity arose for me to have 15 uninterrupted moments with this woman. I turned off the lights, closed the door, turned on some music and performed Reiki on her. I started from her head and went to her feet. At first she didn’t appear to even realize I was there, let alone gently laying my hands on her head. After approx. 2min she stopped yelling. I continued.

The room was silent except for the soft music.I watched the monitor—her pulse went from 112 to 88, her blood pressure went from 160/98 to 142/80 and her respirations went from 32 to 18. By the time I reached her pelvis, she was asleep. She remained asleep for an hour and when she awoke she no longer cried for help.

The ER doc on duty that day was a skeptic of the power of Reiki.he is no longer a skeptic! I gave report to the nursing home and sent her back…happy.

I took Reiki as a nursing elective last summer during my BSN classes…I have used it on many of my co-workers, family and patients. The immediate relaxation it brings is amazing and powerful. I do not often have time in the ER to perform Reiki on my patients but what a blessing it was for that elderly woman that day…and my co-workers love the 5 min head and shoulder Reiki session at the nurses station!

As nurses we have so many interventions available to us to relieve pain and suffering…it seems that in the last half of my nursing career the interventions went from physically assisting to chemically assisting. I LOVE that we are now heading in a direction that allows us to get back to our roots…laying our hands on our patients is “old school” but it is what is lacking in our care today. Reiki, aromatherapy, hand massage, light touch, maybe even an
old fashion bed bath and simply sitting and talking/listening to our patients are interventions that are free, and powerful…and according to the surveys on
patient satisfaction—those interventions are what get the most BRAVO’s from the patient. These interventions allow us to be present with our patients…showing them that we do care about their issue and them.

These interventions also are what bring the most satisfaction to me as I care for my patients…

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