Study explores how the way staff communicate with dementia patients impacts their ability to provide care

    It’s not what you say, but how you say it

      • Sector News
    • 08.02.21

    The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) has published an interesting study that highlights the impact communication, and the way staff ask questions, can have on their ability to provide care. 

    According to the NIHR, more than a quarter of hospital patients have dementia and many of them refuse food, drink, medication or requests to be examined, which presents a dilemma for healthcare professionals, as they need to strike a balance between respecting a patient’s wishes and delivering effective care.

    The study analysed more than 600 requests made by professionals to carry out tasks such as eating, drinking, personal care, giving medication, and rehabilitation. Having a range of ways of making requests led to more positive responses from patients who were confused or resisting care. 

    Professionals' phrasing, tone and question construction also influenced the chance of a positive response. For example, phrases like “I was wondering…” displayed doubt and increased refusals. By contrast, “I am just going to…Is that alright?” implied that a task was about to happen and increased agreement.

    NIHR: Careful phrasing of requests by hospital staff could help people with dementia accept care

    Maybo perspective

    Policymakers and carers have raised the issue of communication between hospital staff and people with dementia, yet health and care professionals still receive little or no training on how to best communicate with such patients.

    Our training courses provide staff with communication techniques that can lead to better concordance from dementia patients and increase staff confidence. The courses can be delivered face to face or online and aim to develop the learners' ability to take effective, person-centred measures to reduce restrictive practices that might be used intentionally, or in some cases without realising they are restricting the person's liberty or autonomy.

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