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As we head into World Alzheimer Month, April Dobson, Head of Dementia Care and Wellbeing at Hallmark Care Homes, shares how she introduced Talking Mats and the impact it has had. This is the first of 3 blogs.

These are the things I missed over the past couple of years

  • the chat with the person in the shop
  • the coffee and natter with a friend
  • the catching up with family news

A big gaping hole was left in my life and I found myself wondering if that’s how someone with communication difficulties feels every single day

Over the years I have observed frustration and sadness in the person with dementia born out of not being able to be heard, and withdrawal and isolation in part due to not being part of a conversation, not having a connection.  This frustration is reflected in carers and family members when they talk about communicating.  They worry that they might be doing something wrong when their efforts don’t get the response they hoped for, and sometimes just stop trying to make a connection because it’s simply too difficult.

I believed there must be a way to hear these voices.  My research lead me to believe Talking Mats could be a game changer for Hallmark and I became a Licenced Trainer in 2021. I proposed the following implementation;

  • Training 2 key staff members per home
  • Training Regional teams
  • Using Talking Mats to support information gathering in our annual survey.  Up until now the views of people living with dementia around their care had not been captured. More about this in a follow-on blog.

The Board at Hallmark were as enthusiastic as I was and our Executive Leadership Team also completed their Foundation Training.

Despite a return to lock down, I managed to follow my plan for face to face training (more or less).  As of July 2022, I am really proud to report that Hallmark Care Homes has a total of 52 qualified Talking Mats practitioners within the team.  What’s more, all 52 are just as excited as I am; here’s just one example of that from a member of the care team;

“The talking mats allowed us to be able to stay on the conversation by pictures and by keeping things on the mat to refer to…. And it was a really nice one to one time as well and their whole demeanour afterwards was amazing, completely different, really calm, really engaged, really alert. So yeah, we did notice the significant difference after doing that. And it was, it was a nice protected bit of time, to spend with them somewhere quiet”.

It is early days but I feel we have the foundations of something really special and important in place.  Conversations are happening; there’s no pressure to talk – everyone has the options of being vocal or being quiet – but our skilled, trained team members are able to gently guide a conversation if necessary, taking cues from subtle body language or nuanced expressions.

This project has connected people; Hallmark residents, team members and families and I’ll tell you more about the impact that Talking mats has had in the next blog.

Talking Mats will be attending the Alzheimer Scotland conference on the 5th of September, come and say hello

We are all continuing to live in challenging times due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and there are concerns about the impact on the mental health of people at all ages and stages of life.  This is a good time to reflect on the wide variety of blogs that have signposted how useful Talking Mats can be in helping people to think, structure coherent responses, and express their views. If this is an area of interest to you then take a look at these blogs to find out more: 

  •  Debbie Mole, Clinical Nurse Consultant in Mental Health and Intellectual Disability for DHM Mental Health Care in Melbourne, Australia shares a great example of the positive impact Talking Mats can have for people who have experienced trauma. https://www.talkingmats.com/talking-mats-and-trauma-work/

  • Jo Brackley, NHS Clinical Lead for SLT Secure Services  (Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust) describes how Talking Mats helps people with mental health open up and have richer conversations, with increased novel information gained.  https://www.talkingmats.com/covid19_securehospitalsetting/  

  • Susan Gowland, SLT at NHS Fife Forensic Learning Disability Service, describes how Talking Mats support patients to express what they think in forensic learning disability setting.   https://www.talkingmats.com/forensic_ld_setting/  

  •  Georgia Bowker-Brady, Advanced Specialist SLT (Berkshire Healthcare Foundation Trust) describes how using Talking Mats in dementia care and acute health patient inpatient services helps patients organise their thoughts and express what is going well for them, as well as what isn’t.  https://www.talkingmats.com/acute-mental-health/  

We would love someone to carry out some research in this field, so if this sparks a research or blog idea, please get in touch with us at info@talkingmats.com.  

Many thanks to Karen Mellon, NHS Fife Lead Podiatrist for Learning Disabilities and Care Homes, for this guest blog describing our exciting Fife Health Charity funded project, aimed at supporting patients with a learning disability (LD), or dementia, to be more involved in decisions around their care.

I was initially introduced to Talking Mats by my Learning Disability SLT colleagues who were using the resource to support patient engagement.  I could see the real benefits of how it could support our interactions with patients with a LD or dementia and empower people to be more involved with decisions around their care. Our SLT colleagues had undertaken the Talking Mats Train the Trainer program and were then able to train our podiatrists in using the resource. Having used the existing resources we found that we weren’t able to discuss/explore people’s views deeply enough, for example, when they developed a foot ulceration, or were at risk of ulceration.  This was the spark that ignited the idea to look at developing a specific podiatry resource to enable these conversations.

The aim was to promote patient engagement in their care – both in preventative care and when specialised input is required. By creating the resource we aimed to explore what really mattered to the person and what for them were acceptable goals and outcomes. By developing a specific Talking Mats resource we were able to explore treatments options and impact of conditions and actively engage the person in expressing their views thus creating a person centred care plan. Evidence shows us when people are involved in decision making they are more satisfied with their care, which in turns improves their quality of life.

Having consulted with Talking Mats we jointly created an initial resource which we piloted within NHS Fife over a 6 week period. People living within care homes and people with a learning disability were the target audience for the pilot. Using the resource, we were able to understand more about the impact that foot ulceration was having on patients, and patient’s views on treatment options.

One example of this positive impact involves a 60 year old patient with learning disabilities and dementia. She lives independently with one hour support each day to assist with personal care. She has been known to podiatry for some time due to repeated ulceration. Specialist footwear has been supplied and regular input is in place to reduce the risk of re-occurrence, however at times the foot does break down.

In May the patient experienced a break down on her foot. She is a very pleasant lady who always comes across as if nothing bothers her and everything is fine; she doesn’t like to “cause a fuss”. It was felt the use of a Talking Mat might give us greater insight into the impact the wound was having.

As a result of completing the Talking Mat we were able to discover the patient was in fact experiencing difficulties with the type of dressing and was experiencing pain. We were able to address this and change  the dressing type to an adhesive dressing, which took up less room in her shoe, and started her on Paracetamol 4 times a day to address her pain. Follow up discussions reveal the patient was much more satisfied with the dressing, it was more comfortable and easier to keep dry when showering. She also reported to be experiencing much less pain.

As a result of the mat, we were able to identify concerns she had, but didn’t want to share as she didn’t want to be a burden.  We were able to address this and create a plan which was acceptable to the patient and improved her wellbeing.

I hope this resource will go on to benefit other professionals and carers working with people who may be impacted by their foot health. By using this resource, we can help our patients explore their views and wishes, therefore enabling co-production in care. The resource promotes preventative care as well as specialist intervention. Going forward there are many other areas of foot health that could potentially be explored in developing further resources – such as paediatrics, nail surgery, musculoskeletal.

Book your place on the Talking Mats and podiatry training course on 21st September being run jointly between ourselves and Karen Mellon . The price includes the resource . If you are already Talking Mats foundation  trained and just want the resource then please contact info@talkingmats.com 

To find out more about the work and projects supported by the Fife Health Charity follow their Social Media accounts at:

 Facebook – @fifehealthcharity

Twitter – @FifeHealth

 

In the UK we are emerging out of lockdown and there are concerns about the impact on the mental health of people at all ages and stages of life This is a good time to reflect on the wide variety of blogs that have signposted how useful Talking Mats can be in helping people to think, structure coherent responses, and express their viewsIf this is an area of interest to you then take a look at these blogs to find out more: 

  • Jo Brackley, NHS Clinical Lead for SLT Secure Services (Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust)  describes how Talking Mats helps people with mental health open up and have richer conversations, with increased novel information gained.  https://www.talkingmats.com/covid19_securehospitalsetting/  
  • Susan GowlandSLT at NHS Fife Forensic Learning Disability Servicedescribes how Talking Mats support patients to express what they think in forensic learning disability setting.   https://www.talkingmats.com/forensic_ld_setting/  
  •  Georgia Bowker-Brady, Advanced Specialist SLT (Berkshire Healthcare Foundation Trust) describes how using Talking Mats in dementia care and acute health patient inpatient services helps patients organise their thoughts and express what is going well for them, as well as what isn’t.  https://www.talkingmats.com/acute-mental-health/  

We would love someone to carry out some research in this field, so if this sparks a research, or blog idea, please get in touch with us at info@talkingmats.com 

Our first Talking Mats advanced online module has launched. We are pleased we had developed our online foundation training well before lockdown. There has been such great feedback from people who have completed our online foundation course and they have been asking for more. They like the bite size chunks, being able to pace their own learning and the reflective practice approach. Now we are adding to our online course with an advanced Talking Mats module focusing on Talking Mats use in safeguarding. This course is structured around the Talking Mats Keeping Safe resource and how to use it.

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The Keeping Safe Talking Mats resource was developed to check in with people and find out how their lives are going. It uses a holistic framework to do this and the conversation it supports is structured around three topics: 1) well-being; 2) relationships; 3) thoughts and feelings. The resource was trialled and tested in projects involving over 700 practitioners. Originally, it was designed for people with learning disabilities but feedback has been that it has been helpful with a wide range of people including, those with stroke, head injury, dementia and mental health issues.

The advanced online module involves 2 to 3 hours of learning that you do at your own time and pace. It involves short talks, reading, videos and reflective practice activities. You will develop confidence in using the resource as well as an understanding of relevant issues, such as diagnostic overshadowing, developing the capacity of individuals to raise concerns, the impact of trauma. You will be encouraged to reflect on how you can apply the Talking Mats Keeping Safe resource to your own area of practice

To apply for the course, you must have completed your foundation Talking Mats training.  If you haven’t completed this training book now – there is still the reduced price training offer if you book your place before the end of August 2020. Access to this advanced course will begin on the first of every month and you will have the full month to complete it.

Book your place now. The cost is £85 for the course and the Keeping Safe resource and £35 if you already have your Keeping Safe resource and just want to do the training.

I am passionate about connection, about communication, about music. That’s what drives me forward. I have been playing the cello for over 40 years; I’ve been playing professionally for about 25 years. Having the privilege and honour of playing at the bedside of people who I cared about who were nearing the end of their life changed my perspective on the importance of music. I realised that there was far more to music and to my playing the cello than ‘performing’ – than my ego. I learned that music could touch all who were involved; listeners and musicians alike in a deeply profound way – but I wasn’t sure quite HOW to harness music in an effective manner to insure I was not simply performing. This realisation took me into a wonderful course in the USA – ‘Music and Transitional Healing Program’ (MHTP.org) back in the early 2000s. I found what I’d been looking for – I learned about different types of music and rhythms and modes and when to play them depending solely on the state of the listener. I learned about entrainment and other very important tools in order to better ensure that all important connection with the listener. I learned to meet the listener where they are in the THAT moment – to aim to get in sync with them – and to then respond to whatever happens.

This learning eventually and unexpectedly led me to a PhD studentship at the University of Stirling where I played the cello live and pre-recorded at the bedsides of care home residents with dementia who were in palliative care, and someone who was closely connected with them. I wanted to know how the recorded vs live music might affect the listener’s connection with one another.

During my PhD, I trained in Talking Mats – I have since bought quite a few of the packs available and remain convinced regarding the effectiveness of this simple tool for enhancing connection and communication.

Now I am moving into the virtual world that we all find ourselves in. Lock-down has allowed me to have more time to fully enjoy playing my cellos (I specialise in baroque cello as well as modern cello – and I have a 6-string electric cello as well!). This strange gap in time has also prompted me to finally building a (still evolving) website (https://drclairegarabedian.com/) and to schedule events related to my work with music and people living with dementia (https://drclairegarabedian.com/events/). Although I have previously offered similar events live, this will be a new experience/learning curve in the virtual world!

I am currently managing a wonderful project through the Edinburgh InterFaith Association (https://www.edinburghinterfaith.com/time-to-talk); ‘Time to Talk’ – this Covid-19 listening service is funded Scottish Government funded through July 2020, and provides a skilled, trained, experienced listener for all care home residents and their families living in Scotland (11:00am – 7:00pm, 7 days a week).

I hope to see you at one of my upcoming events – please sign-up on my website for news of upcoming events and offers. Stay safe and healthy everyone!

Thanks to Claire Garabedian fro this guest blog and good luck from all of us in her new venture

Many thanks to Professor Anna Dunér, Dr Angela Bångsbo and Associate Professor Tina Olsson for this guest blog describing their research project where Talking Mats will be used to enable service users living with dementia to be involved in decisions about their home care services. The project is based on a collaboration between Department of Social Work at the University of Gothenburg, Borås University College and the municipality of Borås, aiming to develop and evaluate the use of Talking Mats. 

Anna Duer  Professor Anna Dunér

Angela Bangsbo   Dr Angela Bångsbo

Tina Olsson  Associate Prof. Tina Olsson

 

In Sweden, as in many other developed countries, ideas of consumer choice and personalisation of services have been implemented in social care with the intention of achieving better choice and control as well as increased quality of the services provided for the individual. However, persons living with dementia are at risk of being excluded from the opportunities provided to other groups of service users. Thus, it is important to develop both needs-assessment procedures, and improve the performance of home care services, to enable older people living with dementia continuous choice and control in their everyday living.

We hope that Talking Mats will improve the communication between service users, care managers and staff in eldercare and lead to increased influence of service users over the decisions and planning of their home care services.

During 2020 we have funding for a planning study where we can develop and test the Talking Mats decision aid, identify, translate and test outcome measurements, and refine and test the procedures for a comparative intervention project. In 2021 we hope to attain funding for a three year study.

We have already received valuable advice and information about Talking Mats research from Dr Joan Murphy and hope to keep in contact with her and the Talking Mats team throughout our project.

If you are interested in Talking Mats Research, check out our recent blog with details of how you can get involved with our Virtual Network: 

https://www.talkingmats.com/virtual-talking-mats-research-network-launched/

We are all looking forward to celebrating Talking Mats is 21 on the 15th August

The morning is aimed at people who are experienced Talking Mats practitioners and will extend thinking and Talking Mats practice. There are an interesting range of parallel sessions to choose from. Each participant will get to choose three topics to attend.

  • Talking Mats as a Thinking Tool
  • Embedding Talking Mats in Schools
  • Talking Mats in Forensic Settings
  • Talking Mats in End of Life Care
  • My experience of using Talking Mats as a parent
  • Talking Mats and Positive behaviour Support
  • Talking Mats and Supported Decision- Making
  • Empowering people with Learning Disabilities to be Talking Mats Listeners and Trainers
  • Talking Mats and Children’s Mental Health

learning_and_thinking

The afternoon is more informal and there will be an opportunity to engage with some of our partners – see how they use Talking Mats and try things out . There will be posters on the use of Talking Mats in lots of different places and for a wide range of applications.

Plus there will be lunch, cake and a few bubbles !

cake and bubbles

Thanks to funding from NHS Forth Valley endowment committee the event is free but you do need to book your space https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/talking-mats-is-21-tickets-62362171935

You can come to the morning only, afternoon only or come for the whole day.

If you can’t come to our event watch out for out blogs and social media celebrating the reach of Talking Mats for 21 days before the 15th of August .Please join in with your contributions using the hashtag #TMis21. For 21 days after our event we will be having a special Birthday offer! Watch this space, more to follow …….

In this latest blog, our Talking Mats OT Associate, Rachel Woolcomb tells us how Talking Mats can support delivery of Personalised Care:

“Person centred practice”, and “partnership approach” are common phrases heard in health and social care settings but what does this really mean in practice?

How good are we at ensuring our service users are truly heard, and given opportunities to talk about what is important to them?

Recently NHS England set out their ambitions for the delivery of personalised care. This is a commitment to enabling people to have the same choice and control over their mental and physical health that they have come to expect in every other part of their life.

This however requires a shift in culture.

One of the cornerstones of personalised care is shared decision making. This is a collaborative process in which people are supported to understand the options available to them including the various risks, benefits and consequences. A shared decision will have acknowledged personal preferences, circumstances, values and beliefs. This ensures that when a choice is made it is fully informed.

There is substantial literature which demonstrates the usefulness of goal setting as part of the communication and decision making process.

A well written person-centred goal will describe the anticipated achievement of a specific activity. It will be meaningful and help create a common vision within the rehabilitation process.

Talking Mats is an ideal tool to help facilitate these processes. They enable better conversations and provide an interactive thinking space. They have also been demonstrated to be a useful tool in enabling people to think about their rehabilitation goals.

Read more about this in the TMOT Resource 2: How Talking Mats can help facilitate shared decision making and goal setting: Goal setting TMOT 2

If you would like to find out more about the different Talking Mats training options we offer, take a look here:  https://www.talkingmats.com/training/

 

 

 

Rachel Woolcomb, our Talking Mats OT Associate, tells us about the recent Royal College of Occupational Therapists’ Report and considers the ways Talking Mats can support:

The Royal College of Occupational Therapists have recently published a new report. “Making personalised care a reality: The role of occupational therapy.”

As the OT Associate for Talking Mats, I took the opportunity to review the document and consider how Talking Mats can help OT’s in fulfilling the recommendations made.

The report recognises that people living with long-term conditions bring different and equally important, knowledge and expertise to the decision –making process.

It challenges OT’s to ensure that they really listen to, and hear the views of the people they work with.

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A Talking Mat can help facilitate this. It helps people to understand what is being discussed, to reflect and organise their thoughts, to say what matters most to them and record their views. It helps OT’s to really listen, to learn new information, to involve the person in their own planning and support decision making.

Read more about how Talking Mats can help OT’s to make personalised care a reality in the TMOT Resource 1:  TM Personalised Care – Copy.

The RCOT report is available here: https://www.rcot.co.uk/news/delivering-personalised-care-frontline

Rachel would love to hear from you if you have any examples of how Talking Mats have helped you to provide personalised care, or if you want to know more about OT and Talking Mats. Her email is: Rachel@talkingmats.com.

If you are feeling inspired and would like to find out about accessing Talking Mats Foundation Training, take a look at our upcoming courses across the UK, as well as online and organisational training options: https://www.talkingmats.com/training/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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