This site uses cookies to measure how you use the website so it can be updated and improved based on your needs and also uses cookies to help remember the notifications you’ve seen, like this one, so that we don’t show them to you again. If you could also tell us a little bit about yourself, this information will help us understand how we can support you better and make this site even easier for you to use and navigate.

The effect of therapeutic touch on behavioral symptoms and cortisol in persons with dementia


Woods, Diana Lynn, Beck, Cornelia, Sinha, Karabi


Forschende Komplementärmedizin (2006), Volume: 16, No.: 3, Pages.: 181-189

Year of Publication



Background: Between 75-90% of nursing home (NH) residents with dementia develop behavioral symptoms (BSD) which may be associated with a stress response. Therapeutic touch has been shown to decrease restlessness in NH residents, however the mechanism is unknown. The purpose of this randomized controlled trial (RCT) was to examine the effect of therapeutic touch on BSD and basal cortisol levels among NH residents with dementia.; Participants and Methods: Using a double blind experimental interrupted time series ABAB design, 65 participants were assigned to one of three groups. The experimental group received therapeutic touch with contact on the neck and shoulders delivered twice daily for 3 days (administered over 2 separate treatment periods); the placebo group received a mimic treatment identical in appearance, and the control group received routine care. Study outcomes were BSD, measured by the modified Agitated Behavior Rating Scale (mABRS), and salivary cortisol levels, measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA).; Results: 64 residents, aged 67-93 years (M = 85.5, SD = 5.50), completed the study. Restlessness was significantly reduced in the experimental group compared to the control group (p = 0.03). There was a significant difference in morning cortisol variability among groups across time periods (<0.0001). Findings suggest that therapeutic touch may be effective for management of symptoms like restlessness coupled with stress reduction. At a time when cost containment is a consideration in health care, therapeutic touch is an intervention that is non-invasive, readily learned, and can provide a non-pharmacologic alternative for selected persons with BSD.; Copyright 2009 S. Karger AG, Basel.

Bibtex Citation

@article{Woods_2009, doi = {10.1159/000220479}, url = {}, year = 2009, publisher = {S. Karger {AG}}, volume = {16}, number = {3}, pages = {181--189}, author = {Diana Lynn Woods and Cornelia Beck and Karabi Sinha}, title = {The Effect of Therapeutic Touch on Behavioral Symptoms and Cortisol in Persons with Dementia}, journal = {Forsch Komplementmed} }


aged, aged, 80 and over, alzheimer disease, blood, circadian rhythm, double-blind method, female, homes for the aged, humans, hydrocortisone, male, nursing homes, physiology, psychology, psychomotor agitation, therapeutic, therapeutic touch, therapy, touch

Countries of Study


Types of Dementia

Dementia (general / unspecified)

Types of Study

Randomised Controlled Trial

Type of Outcomes



Nursing Homes

Type of Interventions

Non-pharmacological Treatment

Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions