Honouring the spirit within: the Namaste care programme for people with dementia at the end of their lives

Dr Jo Hockley, Nurse Consultant, and Min Stacpoole, Nurse Researcher, Care Homes Project Team at St Christopher’s Hospice.

Namaste… I think we all know it is an Indian greeting but do we know what it means?  Min and I didn’t until we met Joyce Simard – see our photo.

Left to right: Dr Jo Hockley, Prof Joyce Simard and Min Stacpoole

Left to right: Dr Jo Hockley, Prof Joyce Simard and Min Stacpoole

We talk about Namaste in our article in the November issue of the ‘European Journal of Palliative Care’ where we explain an exciting piece of research we are doing with care home staff looking after people with very advanced dementia at the end of their lives. Namaste means ‘to honour the spirit within’ and echoes sentiments of Dame Cicely Saunders’ words, ‘You matter because you are you…’

Joyce adopted the word Namaste for her programme of care that we are now evaluating here in the UK. We have now found something positive we can do to help in the comfort and dignity of people dying from advanced dementia. Of course, it is important to make sure a ‘Do Not Attempt Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation’ order is in place, with ‘Do not send to hospital without a GP review’ instructions, but how can we positively enhance the quality of these people’s lives when it is so hard to communicate with them and understand how they are really feeling?

Through Namaste and implementing a structured programme 24/7 (that includes gentle stimulation of the five senses: touch, taste, sight, sound and smell) we are trying! Let us tell you a recent story.

When we were role-modelling hand massage to a care assistant in one of the research project care homes the daughter of the resident receiving the hand massage asked if she could have a go at massaging her mother’s other hand. The response was amazing. The daughter’s mother had not communicated anything for over a year; however, as the daughter started to massage her mother’s hand, the mother started massaging her daughter’s hand. The daughter’s eyes filled with tears.

When we modelled the programme in another care home, a resident who walks all day, not even sitting for meals, was drawn into the room by the music and the scent of lavender. He sat down and a care assistant gave him a hand massage; he fell asleep and stayed asleep for an hour and a half. We have had story after story. Read about how we have grown to understand the needs of people with advanced dementia at the end of life in our article. Namaste!

Find out more…

  • The article to which this post relates, ‘Palliative care in dementia two nurses’ views’, is published in the November 2012 issue of the European Journal of Palliative Care (volume 19, number 6). If you already have a web-based subscription to the EJPC you will be able to download and print this issue, plus all articles in the EJPC archive. Members of the EAPC receive discounted subscription rates to the EJPCclick here to subscribe online.
  • Celebrating Care Homes 2013, a two-day international conference at St Christopher’s Hospice, London, with keynote speakers Prof Joyce Simard and Prof Kevin Brazil.
  • Click here to read more about the EAPC White Paper on palliative care in dementia, which is scheduled for publication in 2013.
  • Click here to read more about the EAPC Taskforce on Palliative Care in Long-term Care Settings for Older People.
This entry was posted in EAPC-LINKED JOURNALS, European Journal of Palliative Care, NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL REPORTS and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Honouring the spirit within: the Namaste care programme for people with dementia at the end of their lives

  1. Varsha says:

    Dear Jo,

    Is it possible to contact you regarding Namaste Care. Please email me Varsha

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