Reducing Stress in Professional Carers of People with Dementia: An Exploratory Study Using Reiki in Aged Care

Author: Graham Webber

Webber, Graham, 2017 Reducing Stress in Professional Carers of People with Dementia: An Exploratory Study Using Reiki in Aged Care, Flinders University, School of Health Sciences

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This Doctor of Philosophy project investigates the potential for Reiki to reduce the stress facing professional carers of people with dementia who are resident in High Care Aged Facilities. My previous research for a MSc (Webber, 2008) demonstrated that, although Reiki was being used in the care of people with dementia, there was very little in the scientific literature about the use of Reiki and no evidence as to its efficacy. From this masters-level work, my original contribution to knowledge in this PhD demonstrates that the use of Reiki in the care of people can provide benefits to both the carer who uses Reiki and the persons for whom they care.

Based on a single subject/single case research design, this mixed method, exploratory project examined the potential for using Reiki to reduce stress in professional carers of people with dementia and who are resident in Aged Care Facilities. It was structured to enmesh with conventional working conditions as closely as possible and allowed the participants autonomy in their practice of Reiki. Staggered base lines were obtained by training three groups separately: one in September 2011, another in mid-March 2012 and the third in late-March 2012.

A Reiki Master/Teacher (in the lineage of Mikao Usui, Chujiro Hayashi, Mrs Takata, and Phyllis Lei Furumoto) trained 19 volunteer carers in Usui Shiki Ryoho Reiki I. For the period of the study, the carers conducted their normal duties and applied Reiki on a needs basis to themselves, their family members and their clients.

The major focus was an analysis of qualitative data gained through in-depth, semi-structured interviews which I conducted with the carers, pre-Reiki training, six to seven weeks after the training, and 12 months after the second interviews and through group meetings held with the newly trained Reiki practitioners at three weeks and six weeks following the Reiki training. The project also collected quantitative data about participant demographics and self-assessed stress levels at each interview as well as participant use of Reiki via Reiki Recording Sheets maintained by the participants.

Although the overall results regarding the use of Reiki are inconclusive, this research has demonstrated that, by learning and using Reiki in their daily work, some carers experience reduced stress levels. This could then have a flow-on effect of relaxing the people for whom they provide care. The examples of successful outcomes provided by participants in this study, together with their ability to adapt the use of Reiki according to the different situations which they encountered in their work, suggest that Reiki is an appropriate touch therapy for use as a PRN (‘pro re nata’ – according to need, or as the circumstances require) therapy in aged care facilities. In fact, it may provide aged care workers with a reason to offer residents comforting touch that is so often missing in aged care.

This research has demonstrated that a mixed method project based on a single subject design can be a valuable tool for investigating the use of Reiki in aged care. Challenges emerged during this doctoral research and these are acknowledged and discussed throughout my doctoral research to ensure that future research projects can mitigate these variables.

Keywords: Alternative therapies, CAM, carer stress, complementary therapies, dementia, disability; Nurses; one-to-one interaction, Patient Care Attendants, Personal Care Workers, quality of life; Reiki, therapeutic touch, unconventional therapies, well-being, wellness.

Subject: Health Sciences thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2017
School: School of Health Sciences
Supervisor: Tara Brabazon