St Clare Hospice helps care home create Namaste sensory room for residents with dementia

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Published on: Wednesday 03 Apr 2024 at 14:17

St Clare Hospice has supported a Waltham Abbey care home to set up a special sensory room to help enhance the lives of residents who are living with advanced dementia.

Honey Lane Care Home, based in Honey Lane, off Margherita Road, asked for help to create its own Namaste Care room after staff attended St Clare’s Introduction to Namaste Care workshop, an internationally-recognised programme that supports people with advanced dementia to engage in therapeutic, multi-sensory activities that can help improve their quality of life. 

St Clare’s Namaste co-ordinator Joanne Morrison said: “After attending one of our Introduction to Namaste Care sessions, staff from Honey Lane were so inspired by the positive impact that it can have on people’s lives that they reached out to us for help to create their own Namaste sensory room for their residents.

“We were only too pleased to support them in this project. We spent time with them, provided access to additional resources they could use, and research that they could do. After all their hard work and effort, their Namaste room was ready for its official launch and we were thrilled to be invited to the opening and to be asked to cut the ribbon.”

Joanne continued: “Afterwards, residents were brought in and, supported by volunteers and staff, enjoyed their first Namaste Care session. The impact this approach to dementia care is already having on some of their residents was wonderful to see. One lady with dementia cried tears of joy and another resident who never usually takes part in any activities, often sleeping most of the day, was alert and captivated by the sensory lights, music and one-to-one time spent with her Namaste Care volunteer. The relatives of the residents have also been absolutely delighted by the positive difference this is making in the lives on their loved ones.”

Namaste Care is a holistic, person-centred approach to supporting people in the later stages of dementia that is inspired by the word ‘Namaste’, a Hindu term meaning ‘to honour the spirit within’.

Namaste carers aim to do this by engaging people who are living with advanced dementia in meaningful sensory activities, such as massage, listening to music, reading a favourite book or poem, looking through a memory box or encouraging gentle movement. By engaging a person’s senses through sound, touch, sight, smell or taste, and focusing on their emotional as well as physical needs, we can help them to remain connected to others, or help them to feel less isolated.

Joanne added: “Honey Lane are now running daily Namaste Care sessions and are a shining example of how it can enhance the lives of care home residents with dementia, demonstrating the very real and positive impact it can have on some of the most vulnerable people in our community.”

Sophie Blackburn’s mother Sarah has advanced Alzheimer’s and has been a resident at Honey Lane for about four years. “When I visit, I usually find Mum sleepy or agitated, sometimes she’s responded to music but generally I find the visits very hard,” she said.

“Recently, my dad and I happened to turn up to visit Mum as a Namaste Care session was about to begin, and she was a different person. She was laughing, which I hadn’t seen or heard in a long while, she was alert and responsive and seemed to be really enjoying the whole experience.

“I could see how much effort had gone into the session and how passionate the staff were about delivering this experience to the residents. The training they’d received from St Clare had obviously really inspired them and the attention to detail, personalising each resident’s experience to suit them, was outstanding.”

Honey Lane’s lifestyle manager Lisa Gammalliere said: “We have seen such a positive impact on those who participate.

“One of our residents, 91-year-old Stella, has Alzheimer’s and has really embraced the sensory sessions. She loves to explore what the room has to offer and enjoys holding the various sensory tools in her hands and feeling the different textures. Stella has come out of her shell so much, we have seen a real improvement in her wellbeing, she is happier, more vocal and smiles so much.”

Lisa added that another resident, Jean Stanley, 91, a retired physiotherapist who worked at Honey Lane when it was a hospital, has also benefitted.

“Jean is very alert and engaged during the sessions,” she said. “She enjoys a hand massage but I think her training kicks in as she will often give me the massage instead, starting with my hands and moving onto my arms and elbows. She is always so focussed and was obviously very good at her job!

“During the sessions, Jean will often tell me so is a physio so for her the positive impact is being able to recall who she is and what she is able to do.”

St Clare Hospice is hosting its next Introduction to Namaste Care workshop for unpaid carers who are looking after family or friends with dementia as well as paid care staff via Zoom on Tuesday 30th April. To book to attend, or to refer someone for some Namaste support in their own home or place of residence, contact Joanne Morrison in St Clare’s Community Engagement team by emailing namastecare@stclarehospice.org.uk, or calling 07534 031702. You can find more information here.

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