Our February speaker was Professor Kate Irving, a professor of clinical nursing (DCU and HSE). Kate is a nurse by background and she is committed to findings ways we can all live with dementia.

Kate talked to us about difficult conversations and how to make these a little easier and she used examples from her own relationship with her mother which really brought the challenges and some potential solutions to life.
Kate spoke about not shying away from having these conversations and how important it was to pay attention to the cues the person with dementia might be giving us to let us know that this is actually a conversation they want to have. For example, Kate’s mother spoke often about her house, being in her house, how much she liked her house, etc. and after a little while Kate realised that her mother wanted to have a conversation about where wanted to remain living.

Kate also introduced us to the idea of “validation”. The aim of validation is to understand and empathise with the needs the person is trying to express. So, the theory behind validation is the belief that people with dementia do and say things for a reason, and validating their words and actions is a way of encouraging them to keep communication open with the rest of the world. It is also about valuing people with dementia as they are. Validation is a very powerful technique to use when communicating with people with dementia and it shows them that you are ‘on their side’.
The following videos show communication and validation in action:

Communication Strategies in Dementia for Home Carers (University of Queensland, Australia)

Dementia Elevator Online Programme – Coping Skills for Carers (especially Chapter 4)

This course was developed by Kate and her team in DCU and funded by the HSE. It is a free online course for family carers and Chapter 4 (particularly parts 1 and 2) have lots of videos that show these techniques in action. Click on the link below and register (free) to start the course. You do not have to go through it in sequence, although there are lots of helpful hints and tips in each chapter. You are free to dip in and out as you please: http://dementiaelevator.ie/for-carers/

Thanks Kate, for a very interesting talk.
We have also gathered together a few short clips and some other useful information relating to understanding, communicating and validation. Please let us know if you have any questions or if there are any of these items that you would like to hear more about at a future café.

5 universal emotional needs of people with dementia (Dr Allen Power)

Calming and comforting a person living with dementia (Teepa Snow)

10 ways to de-escalate a crisis (Teepa Snow)

Communicating with someone with dementia (Alzheimer Society UK)

Dementia Conversations – Tip Sheet (Alzheimer Society US)

What is validation? (Naomi Feil)

Empathy for Alzheimers: The Validation Method

Dementia Elevator Online Programme – Coping Skills for Carers (especially Chapter 4)

Centering and grounding yourself (reducing your own anxious responses)