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Dementia and Communication

This chapter will cover the important question of communicating with people who have dementia. Too often, because people with dementia do not use language the way we do, we fail to listen to what they are saying and to work out what they are really trying to communicate. It is easy to forget that real communication involves active listening and careful observation of body language. It doesn't just mean talking to (or at) another person.

Much of the chapter will be devoted to making sense of what people with Alzheimer's disease are really saying. Most of the practical examples referred to will come from Jane Crisp's experience with people with dementia, especially her own mother.

Contents include

  • Introduction
  • Taking a positive attitude to communication
  • Speaking
  • Listening
  • Using voice and body to communicate
  • Making sense of what people with Alzheimer's say
    • Stories are constructed to suit a particular interaction
    • Stories about our life proclaim our identity and worth
    • Stories have thematic and metaphoric meanings
    • Although accepting such stories may seem contrary to reality orientation, remember that human interaction is a more basic need than knowing what year it is
    • Stories as a means of maintaining identity
  • Summary
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Author / Editor Biographies

Associate Professor Sally Garratt has 31 years' experience as a nurse with 15 years in teaching. She has a particular interest in gerontological nursing and has undertaken research, consultancy and clinical practice in the field. One of her major projects has been the development of nursing-home care in Singapore and developing an understanding of the cultural differences in aged care in Asia and Australia. This book is the outcome of a research project undertaken to study the models of care provided for older people with dementia. The multidisciplinary approach taken by the project has genera...
Dr Sam Scherer has been involved with geriatric medicine for many years. He is currently medical director, Montefiore Homes for the Aged, and is a lecturer in geriatric medicine at Monash University, a clinical teacher at the University of Melbourne and visiting geriatrician at the Alfred Group of Hospitals. Sam has interests in dementia care, sleep disorders in older people and communication disorders. He has also been actively involved with Professor Helme at the North Western Hospital in Melbourne (formerly Mount Royal) in developing interactive teaching programs in geriatric medicine for c...
David works in the Faculty of Social Sciences and Communications at RMIT University in Melbourne. He has worked in aged care for the past nine years. Over the last four years, he has been involved in a wide range of research, writing and teaching activities to do with the relationship between leisure and care in supporting elders with a dementing illness.
Dr Jane Crisp lectures in communication, media studies and women's studies. Her experiences with her own mother, who is now in an advanced stage of dementia, first suggested to her the possibility of drawing on her professional background to help people who are dementing and those who care for them. For the last five years Jane has been working on the language of people who are dementing and on strategies for making sense of this language. She has given talks on this work and had articles published both in Australia and overseas. During 1994 she spent six months in France, meeting and exchangi...
Elery Hamilton-Smith is visiting Fellow, Lincoln Gerontology Centre, La Trobe University, Melbourne, and Director of Rethink Consulting Pty Ltd. He has 45 years' experience in social research and social planning, having worked at the community level, then as a social planning consultant across some 25 countries and eventually as a member of the Leisure Studies Department at Preston, later Phillip, Institute of Technology, then RMIT University. He has wide-ranging interests in social policy and social development, and has been a visiting professor at many universities in North America and Europ...

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