By Bernie McCarthy . Published by Jessica Kingsley Publisher UK April, 2011 ISBN 9781849051866 Paperback, 112 Pages, RRP $ 21.95

Reviewed by Dr Margaret Winbolt

Research Fellow, Australian Centre for Evidence Based Aged Care, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Victoria

This short, easy-to-read practical text addresses the important topic of how communication alters as dementia progresses. The book emphasises how important a person-centred approach is to effectively communicating with a person living with dementia. Dr McCarthy, brings his expertise as a Clinical Psychologist and a trainer in Dementia Care Mapping to providing a description of the meaning of person-centred care, communication and how the changes in the brain impact on a person's ability to communicate effectively. This theoretical information is derived from and supported by well recognised sources such as the work of Tom Kitwood and the Bradford Dementia Group meaning the content is accurate and reliable. The book goes beyond being a theoretical text as it provides the reader with practical strategies to promote effective communication as well as advice as to do's and don'ts when communicating with a person with dementia. The strategies are readily understandable and could be easily enacted. Hearing the Person with Dementia does not present new information but rather brings pieces of existing knowledge together in a way which connects them and demonstrates how they can be used to develop effective communication strategies. Essentially the book is a simple guide to understanding human communication and effective communication with people with dementia.

It is, however, this simple format which causes uncertainty as to who the target audience is and the book does at times seem to be a simplified textbook while at others being a ‘how to’ guide for family carers. The author says the book was written for both family and professional carers but I would suggest that it is not targeted at professional caregivers who, by definition, are tertiary prepared and might find the language too simplistic. Rather the text appears to be suitable for paid carers such as Assistants in Nursing or Personal Care Workers. While the content and information are equally relevant to both groups, in attempting to relate to both family and paid carers the text is at risk of not entirely meeting the needs of either. This is reflected in the scenarios which may be dismissed as irrelevant by one or other of the target groups and the language and tone which seem to alternate between being suitable for paid carers and at others for family carers. This lack of clarity as to the target audience is particularly evident in the Chapter 6: Caring for yourself, in which the valuable information appears to be especially relevant to family carers and less so to a paid carer.

Despite these limitations, the text does contribute to meeting a need for accessible and practical information both about how dementia impacts on a person's ability to communicate and how carers can promote effective communication using a person-centred approach. This text achieves this through its simple approach, structure and easy-to-read language and is probably most suited to family carers but could be a useful introduction to the topic for paid carers.