Background Attempts to remain mindful of the preferences and needs of people with dementia as their communicative abilities decrease include Advanced Care Planning. This assists people in making plans (and having a voice) for a time when they have less capacity to do so. The person with dementia should not be bound though by priorly made decisions if needs and wishes change. Having problems in communicating does not mean that individuals are unable to express themselves. Instead, we need to find ways to ‘listen’ to what is being related, at each stage of a person’s dementia journey, no matter how abstract or confused their communication may be.
Aim This work aims at exploring the learning potential of engaging mental health nurses with a range of personal narratives by people with dementia.
Methods Students were offered a selection of ‘narrative’ accounts from a variety of media sources including internet blogs/discussion forums, stories and autobiographical texts, art work, poetry and television documentaries. These include different communicative modes utilising visual and textual narrratives. Subsequent learning was evaluated through focus group and reflective reports.
Results The preliminary findings from these learning activities demonstrate a greater appreciation of lived experience, including thoughts and feelings of those with dementia.
Discussion/conclusion The work illustrated here highlights the need to facilitate expression of lived experience amongst those with dementia and for health care workers/learners to ‘hear’ their narratives. It helps to promote empathic learning and has the capacity to be impactful and memorable.
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