Hold & Relax

Hold & Relax

  • 10
  • 30


  • Find Calm

What you need

  1. A quiet and warm space with no distractions
  2. Blankets or other personal comforters (these can help people to feel relaxed and build trust with the caregiver)
  3. An understanding of the person’s life and health history to make sure you’re giving them the right support – this is vital


Holding techniques are a type of non-intrusive massage. They’re particularly good for people living with dementia who enjoy touch but don’t like the constant movement of massage. They’re also good for people who bruise easily or can’t have a massage for medical reasons – or for when you don’t know whether massage is safe for them.

It’s important to always let the person know what you are going to do and when you are going to do it throughout the session. Before you do anything, make sure you explain and reassure them. For example, “I am now going to pick up your hand” or “I am now going to walk behind you, but I’ll keep talking so you know where I am. Then I’m going to place my hand gently on your forehead. Do you feel comfortable with that?” This is meant to be a very relaxing activity, so take your time and make sure you apply pressure very gently.

The Activity

You can do the first step and then jump to the last, or the first step followed by all the rest. Just do whatever the person is comfortable with. If they can’t communicate well, be sensitive to their reactions to gauge whether they’re enjoying it.

1. Hand holding

  • It’s as simple as it sounds. Sit with the person and hold their hand
  • Lift their hand and place it between yours, applying very gentle touch. Hands can rest on the lap of the person or be held up, depending on the person’s abilities and health issues
  • Hold for 30 seconds
  • Gently place the hand down and release
  • Transfer to the other hand and hold again for 30 seconds
  • Gently place the hand down

2. Lower and upper arm holding

  • Let the person know you are going to hold their arm
  • Take the person’s lower arm and hold either side of it with both your hands, with a very gentle touch
  • Hold for 20-30 seconds and then move your hands, one at a time, to the upper arm and hold for another 20-30 seconds
  • Gently put the arm down and move to the other arm
  • Repeat the process
  • Gently let go of the arm

3. Shoulder holding

  • Let the person know you are going to stand behind them. Some people might feel more comfortable if you talk to them softly throughout this holding technique, as you will be behind them and they won’t be able to see you
  • Place your hand gently on the person’s shoulders and hold them there for 20-30 seconds
  • Once finished, move to where they can see you

4. Head holding

  • Again, you’ll be stood behind the person, so they might like you to talk to them throughout. Also, only do this if you know them, as they might not enjoy having their head touched
  • Stand behind the person and gently place one hand on the forehead and your other hand on the back of their neck. Hold in place for 20-30 seconds

5. Finishing

  • No matter how many holding techniques you do, make sure you end with this one
  • Sit with the person and revisit the hands, placing one or both of your hands on theirs for about 5-10 seconds
  • Make sure you tell them that the session has now ended