Dementia Centred

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By James McKillop

September 22nd, 2016

Conversations in Hospitals

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 6: Conversations in Hospitals

There are problems peculiar to hospitals such as times to see patients when so much goes on all around them.  The noise and distractions are unhelpful. You just can’t re-arrange the ward to suit you. If you can take the person away from that environment, so much the better.  But this is not always possible, but there are things to consider:

  • One person’s best time may not be when the medical staff is available to have the conversation.
  • How can you look someone in the eye when the bed is high and the chairs are low. Towering over someone who is lying or sitting up in bed is not the best position to communicate.  
  • Is there any privacy as beds are nearby?  Drawing screens round you doesn’t help as every word can be heard by those nearby, especially if you have to raise your voice to overcome hearing problems and ward noise.  

I see the problems hospital staff have, but can offer no solution to cover all situations.  You have to do your best in the circumstances at the time and use your initiative.  Never feel disheartened.  You can only work with what is there. This is a time when I feel a soothing touch would be most welcomed.  We appreciate you always do your best for us.

In his final post on communication James will share tips for telephone conversations.


In his previous posts on communication James has covered:

Part 1: Preparation for effective communication

Part 2: Place, the impact of environment on communication

Part 3: Setting the scene well can enhance communication

Part 4: The conversation: collecting information

Part 5: Keeping the conversation on the right track

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.