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Dementia sufferers communication improved with 'talking mat'


 A “talking mat” is helping people with dementia communicate more effectively with carers and feel more involved in decisions about their lives, according to research published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Talking mats, which use simple symbols and pictures that can be moved around a textured mat as a conversation aid, were developed by the University of Stirling. The research is based on the experience of 18 pairs of dementia sufferers and carers who compared the results of using verbal communication and the mat to discuss different aspects of daily life.



Readers' comments (12)

  • I work in the community setting. Mostly people with depression, dementia and Alzheimer's . Need some guidance how to encourage those who live on their own homes, helping with talking mats?

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  • If you look on the Talking Mats website - - you will find information about resources and training that are available to help implement the Talking Mats approach.
    You can also phone the Talking Mats Team at 01786 458105

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  • these mats look interesting, but i dont want to sound negative but staff training appears sadly lacking for dementia patients my mother who has dementia has had several hospital admissions over the last couple of years and every time i have to repeat over and over that my mother has dementia to nurses and medical staff alike despite it being documented on her notes she has been treated and labelled as difficult byt staff she does not understand instructions i e fold your arms but a gentle prompt touching her arms and moving gently into position usually works or showing what you want her to do can also work
    On the last ward my mother was admitted to 4 out of 5 patients had dementia but staff did not know how to speak to the patients drinks were left food not given just left, when it needed someone to sit and encourage to eat. on one occasion a dr said my mother had thrown water at a nurse i asked why and no answer was given but to discharge my mother her blood tests needed to show she was less dehydrated and because she could not have iv fluids she pulled the line out, i said unless my mother is given drinks then she will not improve and the drs reply was but she threw water at the nurse can someone explain to me the dr s rationale as i appear to be missing something here. i tried to explain to the dr that she needed to find out why my mother threw the drink as she does not do that at home
    was it a confrontaional conversation what happened, and asked her to put half a plastic glass on her table and to ask the nurses to ensure its kept half filled but the dr said but she threw the water at the nurse !!!!!!!!!!!! i know as a nurse that fluid intake affects hydration and my mother will drink if fluids are put out for her at home i leave several glasses of juice and water around and she helps herself
    i do not condone any one throwing any thing at any one but i despaired at the above replys that my mother should not be given fluid when dehydrated.she is confused enough by her dementia out of her comfort zone in a ward where she knew no one
    so now we know that if a patient is dehydrated we dont encouarge fluids if they have thrown water at a nurse and we dont look to see if there was a reason either
    for goodness sake lets have a bit of common sense and training the majority of patients on wards are elderly with some form of dementia memory loss i dread the thought of getting older

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  • very nice treatment ...

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  • Dear Anonymous,
    I know just what you mean - I used to work in care of the elderly and did a literature review on care of older people with dementia. Nurses are not trained in dementia care, so react to patients with neglect, usually, as they don't know how to react to aggressive or 'difficult' behaviour. They also believe patients are like that all the time, not realising the impact of a hospital stay. Although we should all receive mandatory dementia training, I don't think hospital schedules would allow time for the use of a talking mat. I'm now in the community and loving having that little bit of extra time to listen to my patients.
    Wherever we are we have to keep demanding dementia training.

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  • Well most dementia care strategies arein fact foisted on acute care wards. Most of the time thesepatientsarein fact the least ill,meaning that their importance is relegated behind actually ill patients with serious problems not related to their decline.

    Instead we should accept that nurses can't do it all and far more support is required that just frustration and an 'i know best attitude'

    dementia isn't a mystery and for this woman who knows her mother well i say 'great that YOU know her'but don't be so unrealistic as to expect it to be perfect.

    Dementia patients are difficult to manage in general and if she threw water at somebody i don't blame them for being scared or reticent to go there again.

    It has nothing to do with the training as largely this tells you what dementia is but gives you no real strategy on how to manage anything really.
    It has everything to do with that fact that these people are going to decline with no recovery and the behaviour exhibited is often highly individual.

    It needs more than just moaning at overworked staff with more important patients to deal with

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  • talking mats sound a lovely idea, but in an acute hospital, where nursing staff already have difficulty meeting the basic needs of patients, doctors, junior doctors, newly qualified staff, staff doing other training courses, nursing students, hca,....who is going to have the time to sit with one individual patient and use a talking mat. In reality it would be the visitors. (It would be nice if it could be those visitors that stop staff from beign able to get on with their work, by asking the same questions as they did the last few times that they visited.) And yes i work on a acute medical ward for the elderly.

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  • jjjez, have I misunderstood you, or are you saying that people with dementia are less important than people who don't have dementia?

    To my mind there's an enormous difference between someone throwing something at me because they want to hurt me, and throwing something because they're confused, disorientated, frightened, can't speak to me, and so on.

    Surely it's a basic human right to be adequately hydrated, and if staff have to work out a strategy to ensure that a person drinks enough to stay well whilst on a ward then isn't that just part of good basic care?

    When carers and relatives are telling us their strategies for dealing with issues like drinking etc then it's there on a plate for us, just a case of listening and communicating information to the team.

    I don't doubt that everyone's frantically busy, but what does it say about nursing as a profession if we can't even show a bit of empathy to these patients? God help us all if we can't muster a bit of compassion for a person with dementia, maybe we should be looking for a different job.

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  • before saying that we havn't got time to use talking mats, should't we consider how much time we will save if we communicate better with the patient?

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  • jjjez comment

    quite appalled by this. I trust the individual is not in the caring profession or a carer as they can decide about who is important and who is not, try telling anyone who has friends or relatives with this disease that they are not important and you will get a well deserved "sore face" training is key to understanding and this in turn is key to care, the phrase is "living with dementia" means just that, they are not there by choice and entitled to every bit as much respect as anyone else who has a disability and needs care and attention. "sufferers" relate more to the ignorance that the comment above illustrates


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