Namaste Care considers patients’ individual needs. Researchers from ECON MUNI measure how effective it is.

19 Mar 2024 Jana Sosnová

Research team from MUNI. From left Jana Soukopová, Lucie Vidovićová, Dominika Tóthová, Tereza Parks and Jakub Hlávka.

Since the beginning of the year, the researchers involved in the In-Touch project are trying to improve the lives of people with dementia and of those who take care of them. Health economists from ECON MUNI are also part of the international team. Jakub Hlávka, head of the Health Economics, Policy, and Innovation Institute (HEPII), says that palliative care should take the emotional, spiritual, and cultural needs of patients into account.

What is the focus of the In-Touch project?

In-Touch is a project dealing with palliative care for patients with dementia in retirement homes. Our team will evaluate the effectiveness and costs of specific palliative treatment procedures – the so-called Namaste Care and the Family Carer Decision Support. In both instances, this is a combination of non-pharmacological treatments.

What does Namaste Care mean?

The Namaste Care method includes many elements that take into account the individual needs of people living with dementia – for example, music therapy, work with spirituality or physical touch. This can help activate people with advanced dementia who do not seem to respond and improve their communication with the surroundings, for example through visual, physical, or musical stimuli.

Is this a completely new approach or is this an established method?

The original Namaste Care methodology dates back to 2003 to the USA where it was developed by Joyce Simard. At the beginning the focus was group care, but ten years later the group programme was extended to include individual bedside care for immobile residents of retirement homes. This method is currently used by the caring staff in many countries around the world, for example in the USA, Canada, Australia, and many European countries as well.

How can this method specifically help patients and their families?

It can be a significant help for patients with advanced dementia. It will primarily enable better contact with their surroundings. Relatives often face difficulties when searching for new ways how to communicate with their loved ones. And the elements of Namaste Care can bring the reconnection for meaningful moments during visits.

Thanks to its personalised approach that takes into account the specific needs of each patient, Namaste Care can improve the quality of life not only for people with dementia and their families, but also for medics and the caring staff. Its main focus is the creation of positive experiences and promotion of communication within the caring team.

How can Namaste Care help people working in healthcare?

Since this is a relatively low-cost programme, it can be relatively easily implemented in various facilities providing care to people with dementia. Namaste Care can be a very valuable instrument for healthcare professionals for improving the quality of care provided to patients. This individualised care not only creates room for more effective communication between the staff and patients but also supports a sensitive and respectful approach to each person's specific needs.

What will be the benefits of the involvement of economists in research?

The involvement of economists in research is crucial for finding out the cost and economic benefits of treatments. It can help us suggest how Namaste Care can be formally integrated into the social and health care processes in many European countries and how it can be paid for. We will be investigating, among other things, the improvement of the quality of life of individual patients and their families and increased staff satisfaction.

Meeting of the consortium of the international project at University College Cork, Ireland.

What do you think are the weak points of the Czech palliative care system?

The Czech palliative care system has undergone significant developments during the last decade. Maintaining patient's quality of life at the highest possible level and early involvement of palliative care has been emphasised, which often shows to be the crucial factor contributing to a better quality of life for people with dementia and their families.

However, in the case of dementia, we still see cases where care that does not take into account the emotional, spiritual or cultural needs of people living with this disease and their families. As the disease progresses, the ability to communicate gets lost, leading to alienation from the outside world. Namaste Care was developed with the aim of strengthening the quality of this contact and preserving the dignity of people living in retirement homes and at the end of their lives. In the In-Touch project we will quantify how much this type of palliative care benefits patients and their families and much more.

Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or European Health and Digital Executive Agency. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.

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Jakub Hlávka is the head of the Health Economics, Policy, and Innovation Institute (HEPII) established at ECON MUNI in the summer of 2023. He also initiated the creation of a new master's degree programme in Applied Health Economics, which is unique in the Czech Republic and Central Europe. In the past, he was a research professor at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles where he worked on health economics and was leading several research teams who were dealing which such issues as population ageing, access to new medication and reimbursement mechanisms. He obtained his degree at the University of Economics in Prague, Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and the Pardee RAND Graduate School in California. He also spends time swimming, cycling, and running, and is also a violinist in several classical ensembles.

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Scientists Jana Soukopová, Dominika Tóthová and Tereza Parks from ECON MUNI and Lucie Vidovićová from FSS are also involved in the In-Touch project (Implementation of a person-centered palliative care iNtervention To imprOve comfort, QUality of Life and social engagement of people with advanced dementia in Care Homes). The project is coordinated by the University College Cork, Ireland. You can find more information on the research and the consortium on the project website.

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