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Hospice pioneers Namaste training for care home staff

Author: Steph Storer
31 May 2018

Steph Storer, lecturer at St Christopher’s Hospice in London, explains what the Namaste programme is and the training they offer.

Increasingly we are seeing the benefits of using the Namaste programme with people suffering from advanced dementia, particularly in a care home environment.  ‘Namaste’ is the Indian greeting meaning “to honour the spirit within.” Namaste Care is a programme integrating compassionate care with individualised, meaningful activities for people with advanced dementia at the end of their lives (Simard 2013).  The programme encourages staff to use all of the five senses to create a safe and comfortable environment for patients to attend and receive care. The care will often include massage, music, aromatherapy oils, healthy snacks and drinks.

At first glance care home managers often consider Namaste to be too much work for staff and potentially expensive but the opposite is true. Namaste does not require more staff and the setup is inexpensive as Thompsell and Stacpoole (2014) discovered in their research within six nursing homes.

At St Christopher’s we provide a one day training course for staff who want to learn to provide the Namaste programme. The day is an introduction to the principles and practices of the programme with practical demonstrations and contributions from care homes that have successfully developed it. The day is completed with an action plan for the way forward.

We are keen to see the Namaste programme advanced through a Train the Trainer (TtT) model. At St Christopher’s we provide a Namaste TtT course for people who have previously completed the one day programme and have gone on to work with Namaste in their place of work. Having had some meaningful experience of Namaste the learners come to a one day course which enables them to go and teach others how to give this type of care.

The course is reflective as well as instructive. The group’s involvement in Namaste is discussed during the day as a way of learning from each other. Often the groups’ experience of it has helped them to overcome barriers and challenges to the programme and these reflections are helpful for moving forward.

How adults learn is an important part of the course to give the trainers insight into how people take on information and interpret what they are being told. This is taught through a blend of theoretical and experiential learning. This encourages the participants to consider how to teach Namaste to others, as it can often be more about attitude and behaviour than understanding the theory behind it.

Throughout the day participants are given guidance on bringing about change and considering the driving and restraining forces that may affect the success of the Namaste programme.

Ultimately the TtT day provides organisations with a springboard to bring about change and move forward with the programme. Last year it was attended by 15 people who evaluated the course very positively, with one participant saying, “thankyou for your knowledge and experience. A well organised day, great networking with others, great ambitious work conducted well with good interactive sessions.”

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