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Trust training on SPECAL method to support service users with dementia

15 May 24

It is Dementia Action Week and an opportunity to raise awareness and take action on dementia.

Colleagues at HPFT have been taking action by undertaking further training to help support service users living with dementia accessing mental health services for older people.

The Trust has been training colleagues on the SPECAL method (Specialised Early Care for Alzheimer's) which creates links between past memories and the routine activities of daily life in the present. This means that the person with dementia is able to maintain a relatively content life in the present, drawing on their own memories of situations and activities which may have occurred many years ago but still have useful meaning for them in their life today.

SPECAL Photograph Album

The SPECAL Photograph Album analogy helps us to understand the impact of dementia and provides those who don’t have dementia with an insight into the predicament faced by a person with dementia. It is an innovative way of understanding dementia from the point of view of the person with the condition.

The training is based upon the idea that our memory system is a a photo album and each of our individual memories are photos stored in the album. Photos are constantly arriving in the album which provide the facts about what we have been doing and how we felt about it.

If someone has dementia, a recent memory may be replaced by a new photo which is blank although the feelings associated with the photograph remain. This feels like a trauma for the person who has dementia and their loved ones. However, past events may be readily recalled by the person, given the right circumstances.

Three key points

When speaking with a service user who has dementia there are three key points to remember:

  • Don’t ask direct questions and be mindful of what you are asking them. Lots of questions can result in anxiety and feel like they are being tested or quizzed on what they can remember.

  • Listen to the expert – the person with dementia is the expert in these circumstances so take the time to understand where they are with their thought process.

  • Don’t contradict what they say – understand the person with dementia is trying to understand and reason with the facts that they do have.

Natasha Yemm is an HPFT Occupational Therapist who has been trained in the SPECAL method.

“The SPECAL method has given me another tool to be able to understand what it feels like to have a blanking memory system and how this impacts the person with dementia. Educating family members is another important step in providing a 24-hour wrap around approach to care.”

For further information please visit: contenteddementiatrust.org  

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