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The Art of Conversation and Dementia Care

Posted on: Jul 13, 2020

Conversation Starter Cards Make a Difference

David Troxel, MPH, co-author of The Best Friends Approach to Dementia Care and Consultant to Christian Horizons

This week Christian Horizons enters its fifth week of an 8-week campaign to improve the lives of its residents living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia. 

The premise of the campaign are that socialization and activity remain important for people living with dementia, despite the challenges of the COVID 19 environment. Each week staff will focus on a specific topic or activity to encourage connection and community – particularly important during this time of limited family visits and infection control.

This week’s focus is on the art of conversation. Why do we call it an art? 

Simply put – some people seemed to have mastered the ability to encourage conversation. They ask good questions. They demonstrate curiosity. They can get a normally shy or quiet person to “open up” and share thoughts and feelings.

With dementia care, family and professional caregivers often must “kick things off” with open ended question or asking about a favorite topic. That is why this week’s Christian Horizons campaign for quality dementia care is introducing “Conversation Starter Cards” for staff members working in memory care.

The cards can be completed by family members or Christian Horizons associates and will include some key questions or topics to bring up with the person living with dementia. The cards will be a regular program tool for Christian Horizons new Pathway Memory Support program. 

A great cook might enjoy talking about her recipes. Thus, the Conversation Starter Card might read, “What’s this I hear about your famous pumpkin cheesecake?” or “How do you make a great pumpkin cheesecake?”

Christian Horizons team members also understand the spiritual needs of a resident who may be experiencing loss or sadness. In this case, a Conversation Starter Card might read, “You have always been such a wonderful church leader – tell me about all the years you taught Sunday School.”

While memories do fade with dementia, a family or professional care partner who raises important and familiar subjects can often still trigger positive memories and meaningful discussion. Even with communication losses, the person living with dementia still has a desire to communicate and connect. 

A Conversation Starter Card can provide a simple path to success.

For a copy of the Conversation Starter Card, contact your local Christian Horizons community.