Many people living with dementia rely on the love, support and care of family members, friends and unpaid carers. This week was National Dementia Carers’ Day, which was established to share, recognise, and support this crucial role. How can you empower anyone with dementia so they can stay involved in social situations is one of the frequently asked question.
Karen Thornton runs Care 24-7 which provides a unique service to people who have been diagnosed with dementia and a support service to their loved ones, family and friends. Karen and her staff have deliberately sought out practical advice and training to help look after those living with dementia and their carers which is how she discovered the Contented Dementia Trust and SPECAL.
Karen, tells us more about your training with the Contented Dementia Trust and SPECAL
“I went to Burford on one of their professional courses to learn about SPECAL which is method tailor-made for dementia. They also run courses for family and friends too.
The SPECAL method uses the analogy of a photograph album to describe in a very simple way
- How normal memory works
- The impact of ageing
- And the single dramatic change that occurs with the onset of dementia
What I really like about the analogy is that it enables us to understand the impact of dementia upon the person living with it and gives those without dementia a useful insight as to what it actually feels like to have dementia. This insight offers carers a completely different way of looking at the condition and one of the first steps carers have to learn is to throw common sense out of the window as it simply doesn’t work. Carers need something different – SPECAL sense begins with Three Golden Rules.
What are the three golden rules?
- Don’t ask direct questions
- Listen to the expert (the person with dementia) and learn from them
- Don’t contradict – which simply means don’t argue
These Three Golden Rules apply to each and every person with dementia and will make a remarkable difference as soon as they are introduced.
How did you first use “SPECAL” sense?
The mantra ‘the proof is in the pudding’ came to mind and being a thrifty Yorkshire lass I wasn’t going to invest in the method until I was totally sure.
So what better way than to test it out myself so I became a care worker supporting a lady with dementia with her morning daily routine of getting up, washed and dressed etc. Staff had reported that she could easily change in mood becoming agitated or upset and during my initial visits I saw this for myself, but over the forthcoming weeks using my knowledge of the SPECAL photograph album and the three golden rules I saw a remarkable improvement in her well-being.
For me as her care worker life was so much easier too and we managed to share happy times together. I have fond memories of her telling me stories about her life and her achievements but most importantly I was able to use these stories whilst providing her care. This meant that she could continue to lead a life that was a close to possible to the sort of life she would have lived had she not developed dementia.
I have gone on to become a practitioner in the SPECAL Method and have trained all staff within the company. Staff have embraced this learning and like me they have seen remarkable differences and how quickly the person with dementia benefits.
Feedback from loved ones, family and friends has been amazing and makes it all worthwhile. A mother wrote about her daughter who has dementia “She responds to conversations, enjoys her outings and is beginning to have some resemblance to the girl she once was.”
Thanks Karen for sharing.