A gentle touch often says what words can’t

With touch and hearing the last senses to go in people with advanced dementia, the Namaste Care program at Uniting AgeWell residential facilities aims to improve their end of life care.

Uniting AgeWell General Manager Tasmania Jane Johnston says the Namaste Care program, a non-pharmacological, psychosocial program developed for people living with advanced dementia, looks at stimulating a person’s senses to give them comfort and also pleasure.

For example, combing the hair, gently washing and applying cream to the face, giving gentle foot and hand massages, using scents and oils – whatever can provide comfort.

“It’s back to basics really,” says Jane. “A modern take on what is essentially a centuries-old hands-on approach in letting the older person know, ‘I’m here with you, I care.”

Jane says a study was recently held at Uniting AgeWell Kings Meadows Community, Aldersgate where the Namaste Program was evaluated.
“The project looked at the effect of using the Namaste Program – not just on the person with advanced dementia, but the staff using it,” explains Jane.

“This entailed staff going on a workshop facilitated by the University of Tasmania, and then evaluating their knowledge and taking a hard look at how much help the program is.”

The results are overwhelmingly positive. “Families as well as staff have reported they noticed a significant improvement in the older person’s life,” says Jane. “And residents clearly appreciate it and look forward to it.”

They also found it works well with all those at end of life – not just those with advanced dementia. And that all aged care residents irrespective of their health, loved the experience.

Lifestyle Coordinator Treen Sherriff explains, “Everyone deserves this special kind of care, no matter whether they have dementia or are at the end stage of life.” Treen took part in the workshop, and found it both reinforced and enhanced her practice.

She has always “dabbled” in using all the senses, like the Namaste Program, in particular aromatherapy and music which helps to connect with and comfort residents. Some of the care was delivered in people’s rooms, other times it was in one of the quiet areas in the facility.

Recently a workshop was held to introduce the Namaste Care program to Uniting AgeWell’s Victorian Lifestyle Coordinators (like Mary Ann Arellano of Noble Park Community, pictured) and will be held in Tasmania in coming weeks.

Find out more about Uniting AgeWell’s approach to Dementia Care