Dementia Centred

James McKillop's picture

By James McKillop

September 12th, 2016

Setting the scene well can enhance 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 shares some insights around communicating with and supporting people with dementia. 

Part 3: Setting the scene well can enhance communication

When setting the scene for a conversation pay attention to the following:

As far as possible, make sure the person living with dementia is comfortable. 

  • Have they been to the toilet recently?
  • Have they had something to drink? Is there some liquid to sip as the meeting goes on? 
  • Are they still in their nightwear and you arrived too early?   
  • Are their clothes appropriate for the day and look comfy?  
  • Are they sweating, itching or cold looking? Some people, while cold, do not feel or mention it.  Is the room temperature at either extreme? 
  • If time passes and they are now in direct sunshine, are they getting roasted? 
  • Are they sitting in a draught, or is the room stuffy and stifling?  
  • Are they sitting in a hard backed chair while they offered you their favourite chair?  It’s best to check.  
  • Is their chair and yours are at right angles? It is vital you talk face to face.  
  • Ask if you can move your chair.  

If they are a wheelchair user:

  • If you need to move their wheelchair to aid communication, ask permission to move it and explain why.  It is a part of them by extension.
  • Don’t approach from behind and only talk when they can see you clearly.  
  • If you are greeted at the door and follow them into a room, do not talk until you are both seated and at the same eye level and speak clearly and moderately.

Lighting is very important for people as they get older.  

  • Try and ensure your back is not facing a bright window, otherwise your face will be in darkness.  
  • People like to see people’s emotions as their lips move, to read what is unsaid. If the room is not bright, ask to put the light on, so they can see you.
  • If they wear glasses, suggest they put them on, which helps them follow you. 
  • You also need to be able to see the person clearly so you can follow their facial expressions and body language.  

In part four of his posts on communication James will share tips for doing assessment and collecting information from someone living with dementia. 

In his previous posts on communication James have covered:

Part 1:  Preparation for effective communication

Part 2: Place, the impact of environment on 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.


More from Dementia Centred
14th Oct
Ailidh Aikman
14th Oct
Ailidh Aikman
12th Oct
Gayle Henry
12th Oct
Ailidh Aikman