Namaste, Embracing the Most Vulnerable in Nursing Homes

Namaste Care is a program designed to improve the quality of life for people in nursing homes or assisted living facilities who are agitated, unresponsive or near the end of life. It is often used with people who have advanced dementia. Namaste, is a Hindu term meaning “to honor the spirit within” and was selected to describe a program that brings honor to people who can no longer tell us who they are or cannot care for themselves without assistance.

Joyce Simard, a veteran elder-care social worker, founded the Namaste program. She was concerned that some residents were too frail or disoriented to participate in group activities in nursing homes. She noticed that they would often sleep or slump in their wheelchairs near the nurses station all day. She said, “ That’s not quality of life. What they really need is someone to touch them in a loving way” She has written a book entitled The End of Life Namaste Care Program for People With Dementia”

Namaste Care takes place in a designated space that helps to create a safe and comforting environment for all who enter, including residents, their families and staff. Hand and foot massage, carefully brushing or combing a persons hair, and moisturizing the ladies faces with “Ponds” cold cream, are a few ways that bring pleasure when done with a loving touch. Resistance to shaving that many men display because they do not realize that they need to be shaved disappears when shaving is accomplished the “old fashioned” way with shaving cream and “Old Spice” after shave lotion.

Scents of the season are used to provide sensory stimulation.  Flowers that are in bloom, like lilacs in the spring, produce smiles as well as the scent of cinnamon in the fall and winter.  Almost everyone will smile when someone is blowing bubbles or may be wearing an outlandish hat!  Moving arms and legs to music helps keep limbs flexible.  Nourishment and beverages are offered throughout the day so that people with a diminished appetite have more opportunities to eat and drink.

Namaste programs are being incorporated in facilities around the world. On Cape Cod the Epoch Group has made a very big commitment to the concept. It is now used in all Epoch living centers in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. At Epoch Senior Living in Brewster, MA 20 out of 160 residents may be in the program at any one time. A framed statement on the wall of the Namaste room spells out the Namaste Mission: “To embrace our most vulnerable and provide them with a sense of comfort, calmness and serenity because their lives are still relevant.”