An ‘invitation to respond’, rather than a question, can take the pressure off both you and a person with dementia when chatting

As it’s coming up to my two year anniversary of working alongside the Empowered Conversations team, I thought I’d take some time to explore the most interesting and surprising things I have discovered whilst learning more about dementia….

My involvement with Empowered Conversations has also allowed me to learn that the conversational techniques we tend to use don’t always benefit a person with dementia.

This was put into a real life context for me when a family friend was looking after me for the day and her elderly mother in law joined us for Sunday lunch. The family friend had informed me that the mother in law often repeated the same questions or phrases as a way of being included in conversation.

 In an effort for her to feel more integrated during the lunch, I saw the perfect opportunity to utilise what we at Empowered Conversations term the “invitation to respond” technique. This involves turning what you would have asked in a question into a statement with the same information included – we have plenty of examples on our website to get you started.

Older people and individuals with dementia can feel pressured and stressed if they are asked a question and can’t find the appropriate language in order to answer it. Turning your question into a statement still provides the same basis of information, but creates a less pressurised social environment, giving a person the opportunity to respond if they wish rather than expecting them to. Turning back to my example, the much anticipated and beautiful wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle had taken place days earlier and I thought this may be a beneficial starting point for a group conversation. As I remarked how handsome I thought Prince Harry had looked in his military attire, Betty (the mother in law) gave a huge smile and agreed in excitement, which confirmed for me that she felt happy, aware and included. Job done!