Left to right: Erin Stanley, director of rehab services; Kalie May, social services director; Lorna Mattox, activity director; and Sue McCarthy, executive director

On Aug. 20, 2015, Life Care Center of Paradise Valley in Phoenix, Arizona, won the Arizona Health Care Association’s Innovative Program and Improvement Award for its Namaste program.


The program is based on the concept set forth in the book “The End-of-Life Namaste Care Program for People with Dementia” by Joyce Simard. Lorna Mattox, activity director, applied these ideas of “honoring the spirit within” to the needs of the residents at the Phoenix facility.


Associates engage the residents with activities that stimulate the five senses based on their favorite things, whether it be freshly baked bread or music from when they were growing up. The center has a Namaste room set aside to provide the proper relaxing atmosphere.


“Our groups are small to encourage one-to-one interaction and quality time with caregivers in a relaxed, calm, non-stressful environment,” said Mattox. “We incorporate the five senses using scented lotions, relaxing music and favorite snacks prepared daily. Namaste care includes pampering, hands-on care and gentle human contact. Every person has a need to be touched by another person. It is rewarding to watch residents during facials; nail care; hand, arm and leg massages; and foot soaks to see the smiles and hear the thank yous. We see benefits daily.”


While the activity department comes up with many of the ideas and materials, other departments get involved in the Namaste program too. The executive director, Sue McCarthy, supports the groups. Gina Anderson, director of nursing, helps by providing a CNA (Shirley Dunson) to facilitate the program’s range-of-motion exercises, hands-on activities of daily living care and snack feeding. Gigi Ponsolle, admissions director, clips coupons and shops for supplies. The dietary department prepares the morning snacks, social services associates often help with crafts and various associates have donated decorations, music and movies for the program.


“This program wouldn’t exist without the team’s support,” said Mattox.


Facility associates from nurses to social services, residents’ family members and vendors such as pharmacy consultants, noticed within a month or two of the program’s implementation that residents were happier, more engaged, less isolated and even sleeping better.


Life Care Center of Paradise Valley plans to add a second Namaste room in November, and Mattox shared that as president of the Arizona Association of Activity Professionals, she was able to invite Simard to speak at the association’s state conference in January 2016. While Simard is in town, she will also visit the center and see the Namaste program in action.