Using Talking Mats to Empower People with Dementia to Actively Participate in Decision Making

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Many thanks to Mary Walsh, Health Service Executive (HSE) Senior SLT at St Mary’s Hospital, Dublin for this fantastic blog post about their project involving use of Talking Mats to support people with Dementia to participate in decision making related to their needs:

In September 2016 Aideen Lawlor (SLT Manager) and I (Senior SLT) won the Dementia Elevator award with a project entitled “Empowering Persons with Dementia to become more Active Participants in Decision Making Related to Their Present and Future Needs.” with Talking Mats being an integral part of this project. In November 2017, the prize money was used to fund my training to become an accredited Talking Mats trainer so that I could then train others in TM Foundation Course on a prioritised basis.

This project is now complete with 6 speech and language therapists (SLTs) from a variety of settings working with persons with dementia all trained in using Talking Mats. As part of their training, The SLTs used TM with patients/ residents with particular reference to the Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) Act 2015. TMs were also used to help the clinicians to get to know their patients, in care planning, in improving increased opportunities for interaction and in improving choices and decision making. In effect, we were checking it out!

All the SLTs found that when TM principles are followed, that it helped to empower people with dementia to make decisions about their care. Some of the reported findings:

  • That the pictures help maintain attention and aid comprehension.
  • That it facilitated strengths rather than a deficit model.
  • That photographed completed TM provided a pictorial record for meetings – very positive.
  • That it provided a significant catalyst for change in some instances.
  • That it helped people with dementia and responsive behaviour get needs met
  • That video recording sessions with consent greatly enhances reflective practice and may be helpful in key decision making

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The next phase is to expand the number of SLTs who can provide training in Talking Mats across the Republic of Ireland. Funding from the national SLT professional body training grant scheme has been sought for these 6 SLTs to become trainers for Talking Mats. This will result in cascading training on a priority basis, increase evidence base/ knowledge re using TM and embedding TM in variety of clinical settings with SLTs leading this practice.

Mary Walsh,

Senior speech and language therapist,

St. Mary’s Hospital,

Phoenix Park, Dublin 20,

Ireland

mary.walsh6@hse.ie

Aideen Lawlor

Speech and Language Therapy Manager

aideen.lawlor@hse.ie

If you are feeling inspired and are interested in accessing Talking Mats training, we offer Foundation Training courses throughout the UK and Ireland as well as online – take a look here for more details:

www.talkingmats.com/training

Once you have accessed Foundation Training you can apply for our Accredited Trainers course to enable you to deliver Talking Mats training to others in your area.

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