Dementia Friends: Thoughts from Japan

Dementia Friends Champion Helen Morris offers some thoughts on things the rewards of befriending someone living with dementia.

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Dementia Friend Champion: Helen Morris

I AM inspired! I read a lot of books about dementia and have seen lots of good advice repeated in different ways but ‘Words for a Journey’ by Takashi Iba and Makoto Okada describes a really fresh approach.

They have created 40 phrases to describe a solution to a problem that people living with dementia experience in a particular context.

These phrase are explained in just two pages. They are also divided into three different viewpoints: ‘the person with dementia’, ‘the carer’ and ‘everyone’.

They used a technique called ‘pattern language’ where the views of a huge number of people are drawn into certain categories. This avoids the problem found when one person with dementia offers advice because everyone experiences dementia differently, so they can only present one unique view of the world.

I am going to explore the most stimulating phrases over the next couple of months and would love to hear from anyone who has a view on this approach.

Let’s start with ‘Usual Talk’. This is the art of talking quite normally to the person with dementia and ignoring a lack of response if they appear not to be listening to what you say. It might sound rude but what they explain is that by continuing as if talking in your own mind, you keep talking.

Of course you keep listening carefully for when the person picks up on a phrase and you encourage them to engage at that point.

The thought is that it is much better to be talking normally than to be constantly stopping and thinking what will this person understand. They say that doing this keeps the normal flow of communication and avoids those awkward silences.

I like this because I am guilty of this pausing and pondering and see it in others when working in care homes.

The long pauses when people struggle to find something to say are anguishing. If we just chattered on how much more comfortable for everyone? I will report back because I imagine it takes some time to become practiced at this but I do think it is a really fresh thought.

‘Words for a Journey’ ‘The art of being with dementia’ Takashi Iba and Makoto Okada with Iba Laboratory & Dementia Friendly Japan’ Creative Shift Lab, Inc, Kanagawa, 2015 Printed in Great Britain by Amazon.

For more information or to have a Dementia Friends Session with Helen Morris, call her on: 07976 702171.


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