How to care for people with advanced dementia

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Lancaster University is helping to evaluate a promising intervention to improve the lives of people with dementia as part of a European wide study called IN-TOUCH.

The IN_TOUCH study brings together and tests two interventions.

One of the interventions is called the Namaste Care programme, developed in the US, which seeks to give comfort and pleasure to people with advanced dementia through engagement and meaningful activity, fun, sensory stimulation, especially through touch and movement. The second intervention is the Family Carer Decision Support Tool, which supports staff to have structured conversations at an appropriate time.

A feasibility trial of Namaste Care was carried out by Lancaster University in conjunction with partners across the UK who tested its use with people with advanced dementia in nursing care homes.

Namaste Care is run by the staff already working within the care home and does not require expensive equipment. It suggests structure on the 'empty time' for residents with advanced dementia when they are not engaged in personal care or mealtimes.

The team at Lancaster University was also involved in the MySupport study that explored the implementation of a complementary intervention focused on engaging families in how best to plan future care for their relatives with advanced dementia called the Family Carer Decision Support Tool.

Professors Catherine Walshe and Nancy Preston from the International Observatory on End-of-Life Care at Lancaster University are leading part of a large European Collaborative project called IN-TOUCH, to evaluate these complementary interventions across Europe.

The study started in January 2024, and has received over 7 million Euros in funding, with nearly 800k euros for Lancaster University over the next 5 years. The Lancaster team are leading the adaptation of this work so that is suitable to be implemented in different contexts across Europe.

Professor Catherine Walshe, Professor of Palliative Care and Co-Director of the International Observatory on End-of-Life Care, part of the Division of Health Research, said: “People with advanced dementia living in care homes sometimes spend long hours alone in their rooms, and care home staff can find it hard to engage them with the day to day activities in the care home. Namaste Care provides a structured way of engaging with people with advanced dementia, with indications that this increases social engagement and promotes greater calm.”

Professor Nancy Preston said: “Whilst it can be challenging to plan an intervention that works well across different countries, we think that these interventions can be successfully adapted to work well across Europe. We look forward to developing and evaluating this over the next five years”.

The IN-TOUCH project, led by Dr Nicola Cornally from University College, Cork, Ireland unites a pan-European consortium of experts from across seven countries to study and evaluate these interventions across Europe.

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