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Stimulating sense memories for people living with dementia using the Namaste Care programme: what works, how and why?

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-20, 22:23 authored by Sara KaracsonySara Karacsony, Melissa AbelaMelissa Abela

Sensory‐based program for people with advanced dementia aim to address unmet needs and to improve behaviours, mood or cognition. Pleasurable, involuntary sense memories stimulated by sensory‐based program are difficult to evaluate because it is not possible to ask what people with dementia remember about their past, or what sense memories are being evoked. Notwithstanding the challenges in identifying what sense memories people with dementia experience, nurses and caregivers should recognise the potential value of sense memories for pleasure and happiness and provide optimum conditions to stimulate the senses.

Aims and objectives

To examine the potential for involuntary sense memories to be activated by sensory stimulation, with a focus on the effects of the Namaste Care programme.


This is a discursive paper applying a content analysis to the qualitative findings of studies reporting on the Namaste Care programme to critically evaluate the topic of involuntary sense memories for people living with advanced dementia.


A literature review and content analysis of qualitative findings on the Namaste Care programme was performed. Findings are reported in line with the COREQ checklist.


Eleven studies met the inclusion criteria. Codes were grouped into four categories representing enhanced mood, pleasure, happiness and comfort capturing the effects of the sensory stimulation observed or perceived by nurses and family caregivers. Descriptions provide some evidence of sensory memories activated by stimulation of some senses but not all.


Involuntary sense memories contribute to well‐being of people living with advanced dementia. Caregivers, including nurses, need to be aware that involuntary sense memories that do not rely on cognitive processes can be triggered by sensory stimulation and have the potential to enhance mood and bestow pleasure, happiness and comfort over and above the “activity” of the sensory programme.

Relevance to clinical practice

By integrating the documented experiential findings and conceptual understandings of sense memory, this paper contributes to advancing the understanding of the value of involuntary sense memories for people living with dementia that nurses and caregivers need to be aware of and, in turn, provide the optimum conditions for memory of the senses to be activated. A sensory‐based programme, such as Namaste Care, provides optimum conditions at low cost to activate sense memories.


Publication title

Journal of Clinical Nursing




School of Nursing


Blackwell Publishing Ltd

Place of publication

9600 Garsington Rd, Oxford, England, Oxon, Ox4 2Dg

Rights statement

Copyright 2021 John Wiley & Sons Ltd

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Nursing; Palliative care

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