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Worcester Researchers Explore 'Namaste' Care to Improve Care Homes for People with Dementia

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A unique programme to improve the care of those living with advanced dementia in care homes, based on a successful US system, is being trialled in the UK.

Researchers at the University of Worcester’s Association for Dementia Studies, in partnership with Coventry University, have been awarded a 3-year Implementation Grant by the Alzheimer’s Society, of nearly £390,000, to develop this innovative programme in the UK.

Namaste Care was developed by Joyce Simard and has been growing in popularity in Europe and Australia.

“Namaste” is a Hindu greeting meaning ‘to honour the spirit within’. Namaste Care combines best practice in a range of different types of care, including physical, sensory and emotional approaches. Examples include improving pain management, ensuring proper nutrition, using music, aromatherapy and personalised nurturing communication with each individual person.

Professor Dawn Brooker, Director of the Association for Dementia Studies at Worcester, said: “Namaste Care is a complex multi-component intervention which requires care homes to work in a different way. This grant will enable us to investigate in depth how this can work within UK care homes to improve the quality of life for people who are often the most difficult to care for. This provides a positive way forwards to help the increasing number of people and their families who live with advanced dementia. We will also work with a larger group of interested care providers and people living with dementia to assess their opinion on the application of the programme and also to generate a “community of practice” that can continue beyond the life of the project.”

Namaste Care started in a small care home in Bennington, Vermont when Joyce Simard said she realised that residents with advanced dementia could no longer participate in traditional activities.

“They were often isolated or placed in front of a television,” she said. “Physical needs were met, but I felt they were simply existing not living. From that small beginning staff saw what I refer to as ‘small miracles’ happen on a daily basis. Non-verbal residents began to speak, anxiety disappeared, residents who slept most of the day, laughed when bubbles were blown around them, quality of life improved for the residents their families and the staff who were dedicated to care for them. Namaste Care is in many countries and I am delighted and honoured to be a part of introducing this special way of caring to the UK.”

The Namaste approach has already been trialled by one care home group.

Caroline Baker, Director of Dementia Care at Barchester Healthcare, said: “We have tried the Namaste approach in one of our care homes and have observed some incredible outcomes for our residents. Staff have been really keen to participate in the programme and found working in the Namaste Room really enjoyable. We are delighted that we have been asked to participate in the study to evaluate the full impact of this wonderful intervention.”

The research team also include Roy and Ros Dibble who are members of the Association for Dementia Studies LINK (Experts by Experience) group. Ros was a director of a large multi-national IT company before being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s (Posterial Cortical Atrophy). They will bring the perspective of being directly affected by dementia to advise on all aspects of the project.

They commented: “As a couple living with Alzheimer’s/dementia we are delighted to have been asked to play a small part in this project. Everything we have read and heard about Namaste excites us and we believe it can and should be used not only in care homes but also in cases where, like ourselves, people are continuing to live in their own homes. We look forward to helping promulgate these ideas more widely.”

Colin Capper, Head of Research Development and Evaluation at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “We are thrilled to be funding this innovative and important project. Making sure that promising research findings are brought into the real world is a key priority for Alzheimer’s Society and it is vital to make sure people with dementia receive the best standard of care, including in the advanced stages of the condition. This project will open the door to understanding new approaches to improving care in care homes across the UK.”