Using sensory activities to improve dementia care

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    A structured programme of sensory activities can improve end-of-life care for people in nursing homes with advanced dementia.

    Research shows many people with advanced dementia living in care homes have little contact with staff other than for personal care or help with eating and drinking (Alzheimer’s Society, 2007). This article demonstrates how a structured programme of sensory activities that are focused on pleasure rather than physical need can benefit residents with advanced dementia nearing the end of life.

    Central London Community Healthcare Trust manages three continuing care nursing homes in Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea, with a total of 111 beds. Although most are for older people who are physically frail, 24 beds in the Princess Louise Nursing Home are for older people with advanced dementia.

    At a conference organised in 2013 by St Christopher’s Hospice in London, some of our care home staff heard a talk on Namaste Care, presented by its founder, US social worker and dementia care specialist, Joyce Simard. Namaste Care is an end-of-life programme for people with advanced dementia; it centres on the structured delivery of sensory activities to help residents enjoy the best possible quality of life before they die. Our team was inspired by what we heard, and felt the programme fitted well with our aims, as well as building on two of our work streams.

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