Using Talking Mats to Support People to Think Ahead
Many thanks to Dr Sally Boa, Head of Education, Research and Practice Development at Strathcarron Hospice in Stirlingshire, for this latest guest blog – linking to her great presentation at our TM is 21 event in August. Sally’s presentation – Talking Mats and Palliative care – focused on using Talking Mats in Palliative and End of Life Care, and included information about the Talking Mats ‘Thinking Ahead’ resource – here Sally shares her own experiences:
Talking about death and dying and making plans for the future is difficult to do. This is partly because no one likes to think about their own mortality and partly because as a society we don’t talk about it. I work in a hospice where people are encouraged to talk about the care and treatment they would want as their condition deteriorates. Even here, these conversations can be difficult, particularly if someone has communication or cognitive difficulties, if there is uncertainty about prognosis or if there are different opinions within the family. The ‘Thinking ahead’ Talking Mats resource is a great tool to use to enable these conversations to happen. In my presentation at the ‘Talking Mats is 21’ event, I provide some background about how the resource was developed. I have used it to support those with communication difficulties to have a voice and also with people who simply find this a difficult topic to think and talk about. Use of the Mats helps people to think through the issues one at a time and see for themselves how they feel about things in relation to one another. Most importantly, it helps open up the conversation about the future and helps people to prioritise and see for themselves what they need to do in relation to making plans for the future. Then they can get on with living and doing the things that are most important to them.
A most memorable example of using Talking Mats with someone towards the end of life is when I was asked to work with ‘Gill’ who had severe communication difficulties. I used the ‘Thinking ahead’ resource with her and found out that she had made many plans in relation to sorting out her affairs (e.g. power of attorney, funeral arrangements). She hesitated when I showed her the ‘making memories’ symbol and at the time I couldn’t work out why. To finish the session, I used the ‘indoor interests’ symbols with Gill and we had a great conversation about all the things she enjoyed doing. When I gave Gill the ‘arts and crafts’ symbol, she became really animated, and was able to tell me that she wanted to finish creating a memory book of photos that she had been making up for her family. Using the Mats, Gill managed to convey why she had hesitated with the ‘making memories’ symbol. Following on from this, we had a conversation with the hospice creative arts coordinator who was able to support Gill to complete, not only her memory book, but also other creative pieces. In her last few days of life, Gill was able to identify and work towards really important goals and left some amazing memories for her family.
To find out more about our Thinking Ahead resource, which is available to those who have accessed our Foundation Training – follow this link – https://www.talkingmats.com/product/thinking-ahead/
If you haven’t accessed our Foundation Training yet – find out more here https://www.talkingmats.com/training/foundation-training/