Improving communication, improving lives
Search Talking Mats

Talking Mats Family Training

To mark Dementia Awareness week the Talking Mats team is keen to provide family training for relatives who care for someone with a communication difficulty.

Thanks to a generous donation from Miss Hendry Charitable Trust and support from Alzheimer Scotland, training has been carried out with family members at the Clydebank Alzheimer Scotland Resource Centre. Eight people who care for a relative with dementia (6 caring for a spouse and 2 caring for a parent) and one member of staff attended. None of the participants knew about Talking Mats before the training. They all cared for people who had difficulty expressing themselves and several told the group about the frustrations and despair they sometimes felt.

The training was carried out over 2 sessions.
Session 1 included an explanation to the background and purpose of Talking Mats, a demonstration, watching and discussing DVD examples, hands on practice, discussion of topics to be used at home with their relative and planning for next session.
Each participant was given a set of materials and by the end of the day all participants had understood the principles involved in Talking Mats and had gained the skills required to use it with their relative. They all said how much they had enjoyed the day and how much they had gained from it. They all committed to trying it with their relative and to bringing back their views to the follow up session. Each participant was given a post-it note at the end of the day and was asked to write any comments- positive or negative about the day.

Some of the comments:
This was a very positive course today. It has made me feel very hopeful about establishing a time of coherent dialogue with my mother – albeit in a focused way and also in providing a tool for her to communicate in a simple way, her own thoughts, Thank you.
• Informative, informal, surprising. I enjoyed the course and felt I had gained from it.
• Could be a useful tool. Can’t wait to try it with my wife. Thank you.
• The course was very informative and well worth the time spent. Talking Mats is a very simple idea which seems to be working very well. I’m looking forward to trying it out and hearing how the others coped and what the outcomes will be.
• This was a very informative day and hopefully gives us a great way of communicating to find out my husband’s views on subjects.

The participants were assured that they could get ongoing support by phone or email and the staff member at the resource offered to provide local support.

Six participants plus two staff came to the second session. The others were unable to attend due to their relative being unwell. We had lively and helpful discussions where each person shared their own personal stories of how they had used Talking Mats and what it meant for them.
Overall they felt that Talking Mats was a powerful and helpful tool and that it gave them quality time together with their relative with dementia. The following comments illustrate this:
small changes made a big difference
– It gives me time to sit down and listen to him
– It slows you down which is needed with someone with dementia
– It helps me know where he is at the moment
– It showed my husband the things he CAN do rather than what he CAN’T do

Relatives found out some things about their partner that they didn’t know e.g. one person with dementia had revealed that they didn’t like having the radio on all the time; another had toothache which the partner was unaware of; another said that food had become tasteless and he no longer enjoyed mealtimes as a result. The relatives were all able to do something as a result to help the situations – e.g. reduce the background noise of the radio, make a dental appointment, add more spice to their cooking.
One couple now use Talking Mats every few days on a regular basis to help the person with dementia think about issues and compare his mood from week to week
He always feels up after he’s done a Talking Mat
This couple had also given a demonstration of using Talking Mats to a family meeting at the resource centre

Overall the participants found Talking Mats very helpful although two felt it had not been successful. We discussed the reasons for this and the group were very supportive and suggested that the staff could help by introducing Talking Mats as a group activity at the resource centre where these two people could be included. The staff at the centre were also very positive and plan to use Talking Mats both with individual people and with groups.

Overall it was agreed that Talking Mats is a very useful tool both for individual families and for dementia centres. We discussed future plans for individuals and also for the centre. This included designing a Talking Mat to discuss football and another to allow the people with dementia who attend the centre to be involved in planning the centre’s new allotment.
We plan to continue our involvement with the Clydebank Resource Centre and are now in the middle of running the same course in other Dementia Resource Centres.

Anyone wishing further information about Talking Mats training for family members, please contact us at