A group intervention to improve quality of life for people with advanced dementia living in care homes: the Namaste feasibility cluster RCT

Health Technol Assess. 2020 Jan;24(6):1-140. doi: 10.3310/hta24060.


Background: People with advanced dementia who live and die in nursing homes experience variable quality of life, care and dying. There is a need to identify appropriate, cost-effective interventions that facilitate high-quality end-of-life care provision.

Objectives: To establish the feasibility and acceptability to staff and family of conducting a cluster randomised controlled trial of the Namaste Care intervention for people with advanced dementia in nursing homes.

Design: The study had three phases: (1) realist review and (2) intervention refinement to inform the design of (3) a feasibility cluster randomised controlled trial with a process evaluation and economic analysis. Clusters (nursing homes) were randomised in a 3 : 1 ratio to intervention or control (usual care). The nature of the intervention meant that blinding was not possible.

Setting: Nursing homes in England providing care for people with dementia.

Participants: Residents with advanced dementia (assessed as having a Functional Assessment Staging Test score of 6 or 7), their informal carers and nursing home staff.

Intervention: Namaste Care is a complex group intervention that provides structured personalised care in a dedicated space, focusing on enhancements to the physical environment, comfort management and sensory engagement.

Main outcome measures: The two contender primary outcome measures were Comfort Assessment in Dying - End of Life Care in Dementia for quality of dying (dementia) and Quality of Life in Late Stage Dementia for quality of life. The secondary outcomes were as follows: person with dementia, sleep/activity (actigraphy), neuropsychiatric symptoms, agitation and pain; informal carers, satisfaction with care at the end of life; staff members, person-centred care assessment, satisfaction with care at the end of life and readiness for change; and other data - health economic outcomes, medication/service use and intervention activity.

Results: Phase 1 (realist review; 86 papers) identified that a key intervention component was the activities enabling the development of moments of connection. In phase 2, refinement of the intervention enabled the production of a user-friendly 16-page A4 booklet. In phase 3, eight nursing homes were recruited. Two homes withdrew before the intervention commenced; four intervention and two control homes completed the study. Residents with advanced dementia (n = 32) were recruited in intervention (n = 18) and control (n = 14) homes. Informal carers (total, n = 12: intervention, n = 5; control, n = 7) and 97 staff from eight sites (intervention, n = 75; control, n = 22) were recruited over a 6-month period. Recruitment is feasible. Completion rates of the primary outcome questionnaires were high at baseline (100%) and at 4 weeks (96.8%). The Quality of Life in Late Stage Dementia was more responsive to change over 24 weeks. Even where economic data were missing, these could be collected in a full trial. The intervention was acceptable; the dose varied depending on the staffing and physical environment of each care home. Staff and informal carers reported changes for the person with dementia in two ways: increased social engagement and greater calm. No adverse events related to the intervention were reported.

Conclusions: A subsequent definitive trial is feasible if there are amendments to the recruitment process, outcome measure choice and intervention specification.

Future work: In a full trial, consideration is needed of the appropriate outcome measure that is sensitive to different participant responses, and of clear implementation principles for this person-centred intervention in a nursing home context.

Trial registration: Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN14948133.

Funding: This project was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Technology Assessment programme and will be published in full in Health Technology Assessment; Vol. 24, No. 6. See the NIHR Journals Library website for further project information.


Plain Language Summary

Namaste Care is a programme of respectful stimulation for nursing home residents who have advanced dementia. It is person-focused and reflects residents’ individual likes and interests. It is claimed that Namaste Care improves quality of life for residents, family and staff, and quality of dying for residents, and can be provided without additional cost. This study explored how feasible it would be to conduct a large study in the future to understand the effects of Namaste Care on people with advanced dementia. Our literature review showed that Namaste Care enables people with advanced dementia to have moments of connection with others. We refined some Namaste Care resources through working with care home staff, family and volunteers to create a user-friendly booklet. Eight care homes were recruited to our 6-month trial; four homes were supported to introduce Namaste Care, two continued as usual and two withdrew. In the four intervention homes, residents with advanced dementia received Namaste Care. Staff used standard measures to assess (1) residents’ responses and (2) the economic costs and benefits of Namaste Care. Researchers made observation visits. Records of activity in Namaste Care sessions were completed, and interviews were held with staff and family. Residents wore an ActiGraph (Activinsights Ltd, Kimbolton, UK) device that recorded their levels of sleep and activity. The length and frequency of Namaste Care sessions varied. Nursing homes incurred additional costs but could see ways to reduce those. All residents accepted wearing an ActiGraph device. Staff completed the data collection tools; some measures were more informative than others. Data from interviews showed that most people had positive experiences of Namaste Care. The findings support the view that Namaste Care has benefits for people with advanced dementia in nursing homes. We consider that, with some changes, this trial offers a model for a large study to show whether or not Namaste Care could be promoted more widely.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Dementia* / psychology
  • Dementia* / therapy
  • England
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nursing Homes*
  • Patient-Centered Care*
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Technology Assessment, Biomedical
  • Terminal Care / psychology*

Associated data

  • ISRCTN/ISRCTN14948133