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Talking Mats, Dementia Services and the Annual Survey.

Talking Mats, Dementia Services and the Annual Survey.

In her final blog, April Dobson describes how the training and implementation of Talking Mats across Services led to the decision to use the approach in Hallmark’s annual survey and what was discovered.

For those of us who work in social care settings, there is a requirement to carry out an annual survey each year to determine how people who use the service feel about it.  People with communication difficulties often find the various questionnaires lengthy and confusing and it falls to a third party to answer on their behalf.

Following the Talking Mats training and implementation across the service, Hallmark Homes decided to use this approach as part of the 2022 Survey. 

How did we do it?

  • We selected 12 questions that were concrete in nature and reworded them to follow the Talking Mats principles and guidance. 
  • Practitioners were given specific symbols, a precise question and a consistent top scale – Happy/Unsure/Not Happy.

What did we learn?

We ran follow-up focus groups to explore the benefits and challenges.

  • Both focus groups reported that using Talking Mats was an inclusive practice.  
  • Talking Mats discussion often act as a prompt for exploration of specific topics through TM sub-mats to support care and wellbeing (for example weight loss).
  • Talking Mats is helpful for people whose first language is not English.
  • Talking Mats can help build trust as people feel as though they are being heard and what they say is being acted upon.
  • Talking Mats practitioners learned how to tailor the approach to ensure more of our residents can have a say about very local issues.
  • Some of the questions need to be reworded.
  • Talking Mats should be considered in instances where behaviour may actually be an expression of unmet needs.
  • Using Talking Mats  did not work for everyone.  Selection of residents is key, and in the pre-work leading up to the annual survey next year consideration should be given to reminding practitioners of the circles model, and guidance/learning from this year.  This may take the form of pre-survey group meetings on teams.

Although residents who gave their feedback via Talking Mats had a lower rate of positive responses when compared to those who used the traditional method, this is valuable information for Hallmark.  The feedback about using Talking Mats in this way was positive;

I really believe this gives a way to hear everybody’s voice you know ……We all sit here with our preconceptions but actually this isn’t about us. This is about us hearing the voice of our residents that wouldn’t have been heard if we hadn’t of used TM as part of the survey.

(Hallmark Regional dementia practitioner)

there are always elements we want to do better and we want to improve. And this is the first iteration (of using TM for the annual survey), of course. But for the first time, I thought, I can say here hand and heart that we’re getting the true representation or a wider representation across our homes and to a point……… We’re better equipped to say what we need to be doing.

(Hallmark Director)

Thank you to April for these fascinating blogs and for being such a strong advocate for Talking Mats. If you would to chat about anything raised by these blogs or find out how Talking Mats could benefit your service please get in touch via Read April’s blogs on why and how she embedded Talking Mats in Hallmark Home Part 1, Part 2