Care home’s specialist massage brings ‘peace and tranquillity’ for resident Meryl, 82

Meryl in her room with care assistant Karen Lyons

The family of a woman who was partially paralysed by a stroke say specialist massage given by staff at her Loughton care home is having a remarkable effect on her.


82 year old Meryl Roberts, who’s originally from Swansea, came to Woodland Grove Care Home on Rectory Lane two years ago after the stroke, which affected her ability to communicate and left her with paralysis down her right side.


Her daughter, Deborah Lake, brought both her parents up to Loughton and her dad, Clem, now lives with her.


“Mum’s abilities are very limited now and some days she can be very unresponsive,” said Deborah.  “But the massage is just wonderful.  You can see how pleased she is to see the carers when they come into her room and as the massage progresses you can see her relaxing.  One of the biggest benefits has been that she sleeps so much better after a session.”


Staff have been trained in the Namaste form of massage that offers a way for them to connect with residents and give them a sense of comfort, inclusion and attachment.  It’s one of a range of measures the home has introduced to give people with cognitive impairments the best quality of life possible.


Home manager at Woodland Grove, Leigh Burrell, said;  “We introduced the Namaste massage last September.  It’s done primarily on a person’s hands and arms.  In the later stages of dementia, or following a brain injury like Meryl’s, people’s mobility and communication can be difficult which can, if not addressed, leave them feeling very isolated.


“We have a dementia nurse specialist who trains staff in a range of techniques including Namaste Massage.   We use pictorial prompt cards that help people to communicate their needs and feelings.  The M technique massage involves ‘gentle strokes for fragile folks’ which uses repetitive stroking to ease agitation as well as ‘doll therapy’ which can bring a great sense of comfort and help people to feel more secure.


“Ensuring wellbeing for all residents is essential and the Namaste massage gives us a way of connecting with people who have very little or no speech.  The need to be touched never leaves us and the benefits of the therapy are clear for Meryl.”


The Alzheimer’s Society estimates a third of the 850,000 people in the UK with dementia live in a care home and that 80% of care home residents have a severe memory problem.#


Woodland Grove, which offers residential, nursing and dementia care for 72 people, has been working in partnership with Suzanne Mumford, a dementia care specialist who runs ‘Careprepared’ to train, implement and evaluate the Namaste Care Programme.


It was introduced by the home’s former manager, Jo Coughlan, who was last month named Care Home Manager of the Year for London in the Great British Care Awards.


Research has shown Namaste massage has the potential to make people more alert and responsive, more relaxed and less agitated.  It is also proving beneficial for staff at Woodland Grove. 


“It’s been quite a commitment for them to do the training and add this to their routines,” said Leigh, “but it’s given them a stronger connection to the people they care for and a way of better communicating.”


Meryl has the massage at least once a week.   A former secondary school teacher, her daughter, Deborah, has followed in her footsteps and is the deputy head of the Davenant Foundation School in Loughton, whose students volunteer at Woodland Grove each week as part of the school’s Enrichment Programme.


“I think being in education made us open to learning and experiencing new things and I’m so glad we tried the massage for Mum,” she said.  “We don’t always get a response from her but she beams at the care team.  It’s wonderful to see the peace and tranquillity the massage gives her.  That gives us peace too.”


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