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Teaching Empathy and Conflict Resolution to People with Dementia

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’This book would be useful to anyone involved with people living with dementia to serve as a reminder that a respectful and dignified approach is vital to underpin interactions’

Title: Teaching Empathy and Conflict Resolution to People with Dementia

Authors: Cameron Camp and Linda Camp

Publisher: Jessica Kingsley

Reviewer: Liz Charalambous

What was it like?

This book sets out its underpinning philosophy at the beginning upon which the reader can build their understanding of the Montessori principles, the key values of which are respect, dignity, and equality. The authors encourage an empathetic approach and aim to teach those caring for people living with dementia how to handle conflict. The authors describe the complexities of older people and enforced community living by comparing it to other age groups to facilitate the reader’s understanding of the challenges involved.

What were the highlights?

The important features of the book are suggestions of ways to create more opportunities for people living with dementia, and as such any steps towards facilitating choice and independence should be welcomed.

Strengths & weaknesses:

I found the constant reference to people as ’persons’ mildly irritating. Its idealistic approach may invite criticism for lacking practicality in an acute clinical setting. The book reminds us of the importance of managing the environment and our own behaviour in dementia care. While I am a firm believer that lessons can be learned from other areas and specialities, such as paediatrics and learning disabilities, and in this case the Montessori principles, I remain suspicious about how they are translated into practice in dementia care settings. It is vital that the age and life experiences of older people are taken into account when planning care. For example, the suggestion of a mediation corner if improperly implemented could be seen as a patronising to older adults, and would require skilled staff to manage and implement a more subtle approach suitable for this age group.

Despite the positive philosophy underpinning this book of which I agree wholeheartedly, I am unsure how directly translatable this approach would be in acute hospital settings. However I also feel that the fault could lie with systems and processes rather than the approach itself, and anticipate success if care settings have sufficient numbers of staff and effective leadership in place.

Despite this it should be applauded for its positive approach to dementia care, and putting the person living with the disease at the centre of the caring process. The book offers us an opportunity to explore new ways of thinking about caring for people living with dementia, and highlights the importance of planning plan care from perspectives of those being cared for.

Who should read it?

This book would be useful to anyone involved with people living with dementia to serve as a reminder that a respectful and dignified approach is vital to underpin interactions. I wonder if those working in acute care will derive any practical benefit but anticipate that it will work well in settings for less cognitively impaired individuals.

camp camp teaching empath

camp camp teaching empath

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