Many thanks to Dr Sally Boa, Head of Education, Research and Practice Development at Strathcarron Hospice in Stirlingshire, for this latest guest blog – linking to her great presentation at our TM is 21 event in August. Sally’s presentation – Talking Mats and Palliative care – focused on using Talking Mats in Palliative and End of Life Care, and included information about the Talking Mats ‘Thinking Ahead’ resource – here Sally shares her own experiences:
Talking about death and dying and making plans for the future is difficult to do. This is partly because no one likes to think about their own mortality and partly because as a society we don’t talk about it. I work in a hospice where people are encouraged to talk about the care and treatment they would want as their condition deteriorates. Even here, these conversations can be difficult, particularly if someone has communication or cognitive difficulties, if there is uncertainty about prognosis or if there are different opinions within the family. The ‘Thinking ahead’ Talking Mats resource is a great tool to use to enable these conversations to happen. In my presentation at the ‘Talking Mats is 21’ event, I provide some background about how the resource was developed. I have used it to support those with communication difficulties to have a voice and also with people who simply find this a difficult topic to think and talk about. Use of the Mats helps people to think through the issues one at a time and see for themselves how they feel about things in relation to one another. Most importantly, it helps open up the conversation about the future and helps people to prioritise and see for themselves what they need to do in relation to making plans for the future. Then they can get on with living and doing the things that are most important to them.
A most memorable example of using Talking Mats with someone towards the end of life is when I was asked to work with ‘Gill’ who had severe communication difficulties. I used the ‘Thinking ahead’ resource with her and found out that she had made many plans in relation to sorting out her affairs (e.g. power of attorney, funeral arrangements). She hesitated when I showed her the ‘making memories’ symbol and at the time I couldn’t work out why. To finish the session, I used the ‘indoor interests’ symbols with Gill and we had a great conversation about all the things she enjoyed doing. When I gave Gill the ‘arts and crafts’ symbol, she became really animated, and was able to tell me that she wanted to finish creating a memory book of photos that she had been making up for her family. Using the Mats, Gill managed to convey why she had hesitated with the ‘making memories’ symbol. Following on from this, we had a conversation with the hospice creative arts coordinator who was able to support Gill to complete, not only her memory book, but also other creative pieces. In her last few days of life, Gill was able to identify and work towards really important goals and left some amazing memories for her family.
To find out more about our Thinking Ahead resource, which is available to those who have accessed our Foundation Training – follow this link – https://www.talkingmats.com/product/thinking-ahead/
If you haven’t accessed our Foundation Training yet – find out more here https://www.talkingmats.com/training/foundation-training/
Recently, Associated Prof. Ida Marie Mundt from Denmark completed our Talking Mats licensed trainer course. She has been looking at the theories which underpin Talking Mats and is planning to publish her work. One of the areas she speaks about is Identity.
In this blog, our Talking Mats Associate Rhona Matthews explores the area of Identity:
How do I know who I am? This is learned from actions, behaviour and language firstly with parents and family, then with friends.
For people who have difficulty interacting, this becomes much more difficult. There is a danger that others construct their identity.
A participant on our online training wrote about her experience of doing a Talking Mat for the first time with a girl who uses augmentative communication. She has a severe difficulty expressing her ideas and thoughts.
The topic was leisure activities and the top scale was things I like to do/ don’t like to do. She did this quickly and with no great surprises. The listener felt she didn’t get particularly useful information.
So she repeated the topic but with a different top scale. Things I am good at/Things I’m not good at.
Not surprisingly there was overlap with the earlier attempt. i.e. the things she felt good at, she liked which included horse riding.
Again the listener felt there was more conversation to be had! The thinker coped easily with another change of top scale which was things I want to get better / don’t want to get better at.
This time when the option of horse riding was handed over, the thinker became very animated, nodding in agreement. Not only did she want to improve her horse riding skills but wanted to learn about looking after horses. Her family had no idea that actually she didn’t just like riding but saw herself as a rider. This was part of her identity.
As Assoc. Prof. Ida says, Talking Mats offers a possibility to talk about who you are, and get other peoples’ responses.
If you are interested in accessing Talking Mats training we offer a variety of options, including online – check these out here: https://www.talkingmats.com/training/
Talking Mats as a Thinking Tool
In the first of a series of blogs showcasing some of the fantastic presentations delivered during our Talking Mats is 21 event on 15th August 2019, our OT Associate Rachel Woolcomb shares her thoughts on thinking – and how Talking Mats can help:
Recently I have been giving some thought to the process of thinking!
Is thinking just a matter of the neural pathways in our brains manipulating information about ourselves and the world, to create an output or action? or is it more than that?
Can we overthink? Is being spontaneous under thinking? What about creative thinking?
At the Talking Mats is 21 celebrations I explored this subject and looked at how Talking Mats can be used effectively as a tool to support thinking.
My presentation – Talking Mats as a Thinking Tool – looked at the mechanics of thinking, and started to explore how as humans we don’t just learn facts but begin to understand and make sense of them within the context of our culture and environment.
Thinking is effortful and depending on the subject we need to think about can be complicated and demanding.
Using a Talking Mat creates the space to think, it helps to reduce other distractions and provides a structure for thinking. This means that the process of thinking becomes energy efficient as a Talking Mat enables the thinker to organise their thoughts and make connections that otherwise might not be identified or explored. The images used in the topic sets help with memory recall and are designed to expand a subject. This reduces the reliance on language and the need to express what we are thinking verbally.
The Talking Mat forms a visual picture of our thinking which is helpful for reflection and further exploration of the subject.
The final few slides in my presentation contain some quotes from occupational therapists who have used Talking Mats within their supervision sessions to enable them to think about their coping skills and strategies whist at work. I will soon be sharing a resource document on the use of Talking Mats as a reflective space for clinicians.
For further details about our Talking Mats is 21 event and presentations check out our recent blog – https://www.talkingmats.com/amazing-talking-mats-is-21-day/
If you are interested in accessing Talking Mats training, follow this link for more details of the options we can offer – https://www.talkingmats.com/training/
Watch this space for more information from the presentations delivered at our #TMis21 Event!