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Keywords:

  • carers’ needs;
  • communication;
  • dementia;
  • shared decision-making

Abstract

Policy guidelines insist that people with dementia should be involved in decisions about key life choices and transitions. However, as dementia affects both cognitive and communication difficulties, it becomes increasingly difficult to do this, and innovative and effective ways to support people with dementia and their carers to interact with each other are needed. This project, funded by Joseph Rowntree Foundation, examined if Talking Mats, a low-tech communication framework, could support family carers and people with dementia to discuss issues around daily living with each other. The fieldwork phase took place from September 2008 to May 2009. Eighteen couples (person with dementia and their family carer) from Scotland and the North of England were involved. The couples were visited in their own homes and asked to discuss together four topics (Personal Care; Getting Around; Housework; Activities) under two different conditions: (i) using the Talking Mats framework and (ii) using their usual communication methods (UCMs). After the interviews, each participant was asked separately to complete a short questionnaire (Involvement Measure), which included five questions to evaluate how involved s/he felt in each type of discussion and a final question to measure satisfaction with the overall discussion. The findings show that both people with dementia and their carers feel more involved in discussions about how they are managing their daily living when using the Talking Mats framework, compared with their UCM. They also feel more satisfied with the outcome of those discussions. The use of Talking Mats could result in increased well-being and positive adjustment to accepting increasing levels of care for people with dementia. In addition, it could improve the relationship between the person with dementia and family carers, if all involved feel that the views of the person with dementia and the family carer have truly been acknowledged.