Dementia Centred

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By James McKillop

September 6th, 2016

The Place, the impact of environment on communication

Many of you have met or heard about James McKillop, James has been living with dementia for 15 years, and was a founding member of the Scottish Dementia Working Group in 2002.

Over a series of blogs James will share some insights around communicating with and supporting people with dementia.

Part 2: The Place, the impact of environment on communication

If someone transported you to a busy office or to a strange room, would you not be distracted?  Would you like to be interviewed in a busy newsroom?  Choosing the right place for the conversation with a person living with dementia is important.  Here are some tips when selecting a place for important communication:

  • You might already be disrupting a daily routine and a routine is important to many people living with dementia.  Choosing to meet in their own home or room in a care home is often best, it makes it easier to concentrate on what you are talking about.
  • Use short simple sentences.
  • If you have to meet outside of a familiar environment, remember that people can get even more confused in noisy busy environments, such as railway stations and airports, with lots of people milling around.   If possible, escort the person you are talking to a quiet room, but do not make it look like you are arresting them, especially if you wear a uniform.  
  • Remember some people now living with dementia might have had experiences in the past that leads to an instinctive fear of authority, especially of uniforms/male officers, such as some immigrants/refugees.
  • It is a good idea to ensure the surroundings are as welcoming as possible, a stark official look can induce anxiety. While it is too much to expect fresh flowers in a room daily, perhaps a long life flower in a pot can make an office look more welcoming.  
  • Unwanted stimulation from their surroundings can detract from the value of the meeting.  While it may be beyond your control, look to see if extraneous noise from inside or outside can be reduced or eliminated.  This can be TV, radio, other people in the house or home or traffic noise and road works from outside.

In James’ next blog instalment he shares his tips for setting the scene for a conversation.

In his previous post on communication James has covered:

Part 1:  Preparation for effective communication

James McKillop's writing on dementia and communication will be published as a resource booklet by Life Changes Trust later in 2016.

Best Practice in dementia care
The programme is based on person-centred care and the building of meaningful relationships and includes guidance on communication and behavior.

10 Helpful Hints Series
These books are a short series of guides in plain language for the use of health and social care workers, people with dementia and families affected by dementia. They are based on research but with the needs and time constraints of the busy carer or professional in mind.


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