Dementia Centred

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By James McKillop

September 2nd, 2016

Preparation for effective communication

Many of you have met or heard about James McKillop, James has been living with dementia for 15 years, and was a founding member of the Scottish Dementia Working Group in 2002.

Over a series of blogs James will share some insights around communicating with and supporting people with dementia. 

Part 1: Preparation for effective communication

  • If you arrange to meet up, send a letter for their fridge. Phone the day before to remind them, and again on the morning in question.  Both to remind them, and to specifically ask if they are still able to have a meeting, as circumstances may have changed overnight, and they are having a bad day.
  • Many people take medication for all sorts of conditions and these may still be in their system in the morning or some hours later.  If possible do your homework and find out when the person is at their best, say morning, noon or afternoon.  Try and avoid disrupting a meal time or ending just before it, hunger may prove to be a distraction.
  • Make sure you come prepared, ask in advance so you know the person and their preferred style.
  • I believe that apart from the very severe stages, people living with dementia can make a choice, be it an oral answer, a nod or shake of the head, or perhaps moving a part of their body such as a finger.  The trick is to get to know their best and preferred form of communication and go down that line.  
  • Do you take in information or make your thoughts clear, when conditions are not ideal, for example if your bladder is bursting, you were up during the night with a sick child, or you have worked all morning without a break? It would be very difficult indeed. So when it comes to communicating with people with dementia who are battling a disorientating situation, it can be a nightmare, unless you make it as painless and simple as possible.

In his next blog James shares with us his tips about the impact of the environment on communication.


James McKillop's writing on dementia and communication will be published as a resource booklet by Life Changes Trust later in 2016.

Best Practice in dementia care
The programme is based on person-centred care and the building of meaningful relationships and includes guidance on communication and behavior.

10 Helpful Hints Series
These books are a short series of guides in plain language for the use of health and social care workers, people with dementia and families affected by dementia. They are based on research but with the needs and time constraints of the busy carer or professional in mind.


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