Namaste – combining compassionate nursing care with meaningful activity for people with advanced dementia

Min Stacpoole is a nurse researcher who formerly worked in the Care Homes Project Team at St Christopher’s Hospice, London, UK. Inspired by experiences from the US, the hospice set up a research study to look at the effect of the Namaste Care programme on the quality of life for people with dementia in care homes. Namaste Care has aroused widespread interest in the UK and further research is under way in Canada and the Netherlands.


Min Stacpoole

Min Stacpoole

‘Namaste is like lunch’ a care home manager announced. I think he meant that Namaste Care meets fundamental needs for the residents, so whatever else happens – a staff member off sick, a fire alarm – the Namaste Care programme runs every day. Last month, the End of Life Care Partnership announced that Namaste has come to Cheshire (in North West England); they have already observed positive changes for care home residents and their study will focus on the sustainability of the Namaste Care programme.

Joyce Simard, a dementia care specialist from the USA, came to St Christopher’s Hospice in 2010 and gave an open lecture on her ‘End of Life Namaste Care Programme for People with Dementia’.1 ‘Namaste’ is the Indian greeting meaning ‘to honour the spirit within’ and the Namaste Care programme specifically aims to connect with care home residents with advanced dementia who can no longer engage in conventional group activities, such as a quiz or a sing-a-long. As dementia progresses, and especially as communication becomes increasingly difficult, people with advanced dementia often experience what Dr Bill Thomas called ‘the three plagues of dementia’: loneliness, helplessness and hopelessness. Namaste Care includes physical, sensory and emotional elements: music, massage, scents, colours and tastes. The programme combines compassionate nursing care with individualised, meaningful activities, and runs seven days a week.

Joyce’s first lecture inspired many people to work with Namaste Care. Most impressively, the staff from Park Avenue Care Centre(South London) introduced Namaste Care the next day. Lorna Reid from Accord Hospice went home and implemented Namaste Care in a residential home in Glasgow, Scotland. At St Christopher’s, Dr Jo Hockley and I set up a research study with Dr Amanda Thompsell from South London and Maudsley Foundation Hospital Trust, working with Joyce and her husband, Professor Ladislav Volicer, which demonstrated that the Namaste Care programme reduces behavioural symptoms for care home residents with advanced dementia.2

St Christopher’s Hospice, London SE26 6DZ

St Christopher’s Hospice, London SE26 6DZ

Joyce has returned to the UK every year, and interest in Namaste has spread far and wide. Some care home managers have read Joyce’s book and started Namaste, going on to publish about the positive outcomes they have achieved. Others have attended workshops at St Christopher’s supporting the introduction of Namaste, and Lorna Reid has also developed a Namaste training course in Scotland. Lourdes Colclough at St Joseph’s Hospice in East London created a project training volunteers to take Namaste Care into people’s homes, and Kimberley St John set up Namaste Care in an acute elderly care ward at King’s College Hospital in South London. Excitingly, there is now a Canadian study looking at Namaste, led by Professor Sharon Kaasalainen; and another about to start in the Netherlands led by Professor Jenny van der Steen. There is significant interest in further UK research too. Better evidence for Namaste and better understanding of care for people with advanced dementia at the end of life will emerge over the next few years.

Meanwhile, St Christopher’s published the ‘Namaste Toolkit’ online last month. The toolkit is a ‘how to get started’ manual developed out of the learning from our study and is now available as a free download.


  1. Simard J. (2013) The End-of-Life Namaste Care Programme for People with Dementia. (2nd ed) Health Professions Press, U.S.A.
  2. Stacpoole M., Hockley J., Thompsell A., Simard J. & Volicer L. (2015) The Namaste Care programme can reduce behavioural symptoms in care home residents with advanced dementia. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry 7, 702 -709.

Links and Resources


This entry was posted in Dementia, EDUCATION & TRAINING, Nursing, PATIENT & FAMILY CARE and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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