On June 3, a special guest visited Valley Crest Memory Care in Apple Valley. Joyce Simard, who developed the Namaste Care program for patients with Alzheimers and dementia, gave a presentation to a large group of people.
Seasons Hospice brought Simard to the Victor Valley to speak at several memory care facilities, tailoring her program to the attendees. Seasons trains their hospice employees and volunteers to use Simard’s techniques.
At Valley Crest she spoke to caregivers who were family members, friends, professional care partners, and a few patients.
Simard has a Masters in Social Work, and through her experiences in that field that she developed this program. It is about helping people live – not just exist – with an irreversible dementia like Alzheimer’s disease. She perceived that keeping a person clean, fed, and groomed is not living – it is merely existing. They need to be engaged in meaningful activities and feel wanted, loved, and like they can still contribute something.
Namaste Care was originally developed for nursing home residents with advanced dementia. Namaste is a Hindu term meaning, “to honor the spirit within,” and seemed a perfect description for people who, as their verbal abilities diminish, can no longer tell you who they were and still are.
Namaste Care improves the lives of residents in nursing home and assisted living, and also those who are on hospice. They may have advanced dementia or other terminal disease, or may just be lonely and can benefit.
The program is used seven-days-a-week. Residents receive meaningful activities through a “loving touch” approach. Usually led by a nursing assistant, it enhances the lives of people with advanced dementia or who are at the end stage of any illness. It provides a peaceful, non-isolating environment throughout the day that allows them to feel dignity and tranquility. Staff and families have also benefitted from its comforting effects.
Another program that Simard developed is the Memory Enhancement Program (MEP). For people with mild memory loss, it provides the comfort of a structured day with a small circle of “friends.” Staff and families find that residents who participate in MEP are more verbal and happier.It focuses on meaningful activities throughout their waking hours. Statistics show that it lowers falls, decreases the use of psychotropic medication.
Namaste Care can be found in assisted living communities and hospice organizations worldwide. Based on the power of loving touch, it is very powerful. Wonderful stories from family and staff caregivers report residents talking again after they had stopped having conversations altogether.
Daughters have reported that their mothers told them “I love you,” words they had not heard for a very long time.
End-of-life care for people with dementia is catching on. Simard’s primary work continues to be consulting with assisted living, long-term care facilities and hospice organizations. She fell in love with the elderly, especially people with dementia, the first time she stepped into a nursing facility in New York.
She says she believes in Robert Kennedy’s words: “There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why… I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”
If you care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia, and would like more information on Namaste Care, call Valley Crest at (760) 242-3188.