Author Archives: Margo Mackay

Care Inspectors in Sweden and Talking Mats

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This blog is about how Care Inspectors in Sweden are using Talking Mats.

On 18th March I met up with old friends – Ulrika Ferm and Eva Holmqvist – at the ISAAC Denmark Conference in the beautiful Vingsted Conference Centre in West Denmark. Ulrika and Eva work at DART Communication Centre in Gothenburg Sweden http://www.dart-gbg.org/english/.

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I was giving a presentation on new developments in Talking Mats and as always happens when we meet, we talked non stop about families and work.

Ulrika told me about the following initiative in Sweden and we agreed it would be useful to write a blog about it.
The Health and Social Care Inspectorate https://www.ivo.se/ (the Swedish equivalent of the Care Commission) had been in touch with DART about how they could get the views of people with dementia who live in care homes.

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DART made a program of communication for the inspectors which included a first day about communication and dementia. Following this there was a full 2 day course on Talking Mats for 15 inspectors who then went on to pilot the use of Talking Mats as a way to get the genuine views of residents. It was so successful that they are planning to roll this out elsewhere. Now more inspectors in Sweden are getting Talking Mats training and using pictorial support as preparations before inspections.

It would be really good if this could happen in Scotland.

Working with Freeset – a Fairtrade business


If you have purchased one of our resources, chances are you have a Talking Mats bag. Last week, I went to West Bengal in India to visit Freeset, the Fairtrade business that supplies our bags.
West Bengal has been recording a high crime rate against women over the past several years. The state shares a border with Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan and has become a transit route for human trafficking.
Freeset has set up a number of business units in Kolkata and West Bengal targeting vulnerable communities marked by extreme poverty. Freeset offers employment to women who are at risk and is committed to providing fair, living wages and a healthy working environment for all employees. Wages are above the national minimum and all staff receive training , healthcare, child care and savings plans.
I was privileged to spend some time with the women listening to their stories, meeting their children and hearing how Freeset is bringing them a brighter future.
Read about the difference Freeset has made to individuals here

Talking Mats is proud to support the work of Freeset and be part of making a difference to the lives of women in West Bengal. If you are looking for ideas of how to support Fairtrade during Fairtrade fortnight here are some suggestions

Let pictures talk

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Grateful thanks to Prof. Dr. Norina Lauer, OTH Regensburg – University of Applied Sciences, Germany for this blog.

At the conference of the German Society for Aphasia Research and Treatment (GAB) from the 1st to the 3rd of November Franziska Rau presented a poster – Let pictures talk – about her bachelor thesis on Talking Mats.

2018 TalkingMats – Germany

Speech and language therapists from German-speaking countries meet at this conference to present their latest research findings. This year’s theme was ” Aphasia Therapy Digital”.
The presented bachelor thesis about Talking Mats was performed at the HAN University of Applied Sciences, Netherlands, and was written by Franziska Rau together with Karoline Bitter and Lara Stobrawe. The students asked 29 people with aphasia and 63 people without aphasia for how representative they rated the images and terms used in the Communication section of the Digital Talking Mats Health & Well-being resource. While the healthy persons judged many items as not clear enough, the people with aphasia estimated significantly more pictures and names as appropriate. For this purpose, various reasons have been discussed, such as the possibility that the persons with aphasia directly perceived the pictures and terms as aids, while healthy persons judged more critically on the basis of the task. But also problems of concentration or comprehension in people with aphasia would be causally conceivable. This should be examined in further studies.
The poster was presented as part of a poster session and was well received by the audience. Thanks to Franziska, Karoline and Lara for their great study and to Holger Grötzbach, Janine Coopmans and Xaver Koch who supported the students.

We are always happy to receive projects and posters from anyone studying how Talking Mats can be used

German Digital Talking Mats with people with aphasia

German TM Workshop

We are very grateful to Elena Maxheimer, a Speech and Language Therapy student from Germany, for sending us this blog of a summary of her thesis which examined the use of the German Digital Talking Mats with people with aphasia.

In May 2018 I did my bachelor thesis on the German version of the Talking Mats app. Under the consultation of Prof. Dr. Norina Lauer, I delivered two workshops for eight people with aphasia. In these workshops the participants practiced doing Talking Mats and afterwards they evaluated the app by filling out a short questionnaire and taking part in a focus group in which they discussed the app’s content and practical use.

The participants generally rated the app as useful for people with aphasia and in particular, the topics, pictures and terms were rated as suitable for people with aphasia. The two most chosen topics were Health and Communication. Some aspects were difficult for people with aphasia. Some of the group had problems in choosing a suitable scale, writing on an empty card or writing down comments.

Suggestions for modification were
– Showing two sessions of Talking Mats parallel to have a better comparison
– Using the app on the smartphone – however the screen on a smartphone is too small to be manageable
– Saving the login data, so you don’t have to login every time you use the app
– One older participant suggested additional topics about specific diseases such as diabetes
– Another younger participant wanted more about sex, feelings, sympathy and love.

For other information about Talking Mats in Germany click here
Also Joan Murphy and Norina Lauer will be running a Talking Mats workshop in Cologne on May 5th and 6th 2019

Digital Talking Mats and Dementia

Jean and David laughing

Talking Mats received funding from The Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland to look at how using the Digital Talking Mats can help people with long term conditions, including dementia,  to manage their health and well-being and to recognise their own strengths and abilities. We also hoped that participants would be able to have more control over their lives and have improved communication with families and professionals.

11 people living with dementia and their partners were involved in the project. Each participant had a tablet device and was given a personal digital Talking Mats licence which gave them access to 13 topics in the Talking Mats Health and Well-being resource. We visited each participant at home, taught them how to use it and asked them to complete at least 1 digital Talking Mat per week for 6 weeks on any topic they wished. The design of the digital Talking Mat allowed them to email their mats directly to us. We visited each participant a second time to discuss how easy it was to use the digital Talking Mats and their views on their completed mats. We asked those who wished to, to continue sending us completed mats beyond the initial 6 weeks and we visited them again in 6 months to discuss how they were managing.

In total we received 94 digital mats across all 13 topics from the participants living with dementia who reported that the use of the Digital Talking Mats during this project gave them a better understanding of their own individual health and social care needs.

A woman with dementia said ‘It (Health mat ) made me realise things are not so bad and made me think I will continue with my exercise classes, carry on walking, socialising and eating well’

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As well as helping participants self-manage their lives, an unexpected outcome of this project was that many people found that using the Digital Talking Mats helped them see the positive things in their life and not just the negative. It also highlighted that despite having a deteriorating illness, things were not getting worse.

‘This mat (Environment) showed me how happy I am in my own home and my neighbourhood’
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The following are some of the comments we received throughout the project.
• It helps me sort out my thoughts – very useful
• I get so much out of the process
• I come up with insights which might help me in the future
• I can now talk to (my wife) in a way I couldn’t before
• I’m more relaxed now
• I come up with niggly health things that my partner didn’t know
‘It made me realise things are not so bad’.

If you know of anyone living with dementia would like to obtain the Digital Talking Mats please fill in the attached Personal Digital Licence 161117 DTM personal licence form with explanation and send it to us at info@talkingmats.com

Click here for the full report of the project which also included people with stroke and learning disability