Family Carergivers of people living with dementia have been offered a unique opportunity to attend Adaptive Interactions training.

Having already completed Empowered Conversations and Moving Beyond Words communication courses, 5 family carers were invited to take part in a ground-breaking training and research opportunity with Dr Maggie Ellis from the University of St Andrews.  Maggie’s work, called Adaptive Interaction, focuses on helping people in the advanced stages of dementia, who have little or no verbal language, to connect with their families, friends and professional carers.

During the four-week course we delved in detail into the 9 Fundamentals of communication; the non-verbal communication methods that people with advanced dementia may still retain in their communication repertoire.  We considered how if we don’t recognise and acknowledge these fundamentals then a person with dementia will retreat into their own world and our efforts at communication may seem futile.

Maggie shared videos of the Adaptive Interaction approach in action with people with advanced dementia. The powerful and sometimes subtle effect of this approach was eye opening, emotional and inspiring to observe.  The films showed how the Adaptive Interaction approach can support invaluable human connection even at the advanced stages of dementia.

The participants on the course were supported to identify which of the 9 Fundamentals their loved one still retained and carefully observe how they used them to communicate.  This enquiry led to the building up of a detailed, individual communication profile for the person living with dementia.  Identifying a person’s communication profile allows for a collaborative approach to communication. Adaptive Interaction utilises techniques such as ‘behaviour matching’ and ‘turn-taking’ which enable the person with dementia to feel seen and part of a social world.

Each week participants were given a take home message which captured the essence of the learning on the course;

  1. Focus on connection not content.
  2. Meet the person where they are.
  3. Let the person take the lead.
  4. Say curious.

The course was ground breaking as it was the first time the training has been delivered to family carers. A second course is planned and a research paper will be written and published as a result of the collaboration between Empowered Conversations and Dr Maggie Ellis.

Participants comments and feedback from the course included;

“This approach opens doors for you that you didn’t even realise were there”

“The Adaptive Interaction approach seems simple but is actually quite challenging to get your head round in practice. The training was eye opening and showed me new ways to stay connected to my mum”.

“Learning to Focus on the connection rather than the content is challenging but has changed my approach to my relationship with my mum”.

“The course gave me the understanding and skills to connect with my mum.  It gives me hope for the future”.

For more information on Moving Beyond Words click here.  Clare Tallis