Dementia is a progressive and degenerative disease, and there are several stages for the progression of dementia. In the moderate to advanced stage, daily activities may become increasingly challenging without assistance. For some, speech is affected and may find it more difficult to express themselves, communicate their needs or engage in meaningful conversations with those around them.
Hence, it is important for caregivers to learn how to connect with your loved ones by showing your love and concern through different approaches such as touch, reading or engaging them in activities they enjoy.
Namaste Care is a programme developed in 2003 by Joyce Simard. She observed that dementia care focused more on medical concerns and “the experience of advanced dementia remains misunderstood and underserved”. She commented that residents in nursing homes “are well-groomed, changed and fed. But what is their quality of life?” It is this focus on increasing quality of life that defines Namaste Care. The programme seeks to address the gap in provision of social, emotional and psychological support for people living with advanced dementia.
‘Namaste’ means “to honour the spirit within”, and the programme adopts a person-centred care approach to support people living with moderate to advanced dementia to meet their sensory and emotional needs and improve their quality of life. It is also suitable for persons with end-stage illnesses such as cancer who may lack social engagement and stimulation, as well as potentially be experiencing pain and feelings of depression. Person-centred care is a holistic approach to dementia care where every person is treated with dignity, compassion and respect.
The purpose of Namaste Care is to give comfort through two pillars:
For persons living with dementia:
For family and visitors:
This toolkit provides practical tips on how to communicate with your loved ones, create a more conducive environment for daily activities of living and simply enjoying each other’s company.
Through this e-learning course, you will get to learn about Namaste Care principles, the benefits of Namaste Care, and hand massage techniques.
This video provides a step-by-step guide for caregivers on how to provide Namaste Care in the form of a gentle massage.
The room or space should feel cool, comfortable, welcoming and homely.
Ideally, there should be a designated room where everything can be left in place and there is no danger to your loved one. If there is no designated room, a space can be created. It may be a screened-off area in your living or dining room. The space or room is a sensory environment for your loved one, and provides a multi- sensory experience every time your loved one steps into it. There are four components to this space:
Choose a room or space that is quiet with sufficient natural light and ventilation. Strong light can be glaring and uncomfortable. Use soft lights so that shadows can be reduced. If possible, choose a colour your loved one likes for the walls, curtains, screens, etc.
Scent the room or space with essential oils of lavender and lemonbalm, which have been shown to reduce anxiety and agitation for persons with dementia. However, it is always good to check how to care recipient responds to the scent before putting it on.
You may introduce your loved one into the space by playing upbeat music. To soothe and relax them, play light music. Understand what kind of music your loved one likes and dislikes, meeting your loved one’s needs wherever possible. Music can trigger memories, improve mood and facilitate engagement.
Provide a comfortable high-back chair such as a lounge chair for your loved one to recline, and a light blanket for a cosy feel. Namaste Care can also be carried out in bed.
Capture your loved one’s interest and attention using multi- sensory activities.
For loved ones where verbal communication may be difficult, meaningfully-chosen activities can enable your loved one to experience non-verbal communication and stimulation.
When introducing an activity, take time to explain and demonstrate to your loved one what the activity is about, as this is more likely to result in a positive response.
It is important to determine the suitable activity based on their functions and preferences. These are some examples of activities for your loved one:
1. Welcome Your Loved One into the Room or Space
The multi-sensory activity can commence when your loved one moves into the room or space. For example, holding your loved one’s hands and assisting your loved one to sit comfortably on the chair will allow your loved one to feel welcomed. While holding hands, draw out responses from your loved one by asking, “Did you sleep well?”
Watch for changes in expression and start by performing a light massage on the hands. Touch is a fundamental means of communication and a loving touch demonstrated through a light massage can calm your loved one down.
2. Prepare Appropriate Food and Drinks
Prepare food and drinks that your loved one likes. Food and drink will stimulate your loved one’s sense of sight, smell and taste. Serving it in between activities will add to the multi-sensory experience. Use this safe and comfortable space as an opportunity for your loved one to drink sips of water, thereby ensuring hydration.
3. The Power of a Loving Touch
Touch is a fundamental means of human communication and humans need touch as a part of our lifelong need to be cared for, nurtured, valued and loved. However, when caregivers are busy with caregiving tasks, one may neglect your loved ones’ need for touch and other displays of love.
Touch is known to be the most powerful stimulus in engaging someone with advanced dementia. Touch may involve just holding your loved one’s hand, offering a hand rub or massage. Even gently brushing your loved one’s hair can be a pleasurable and meaningful experience.
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