Free conversation cards for carers of people living with dementia

Since 2009, award-winning charity, Alive, has been providing meaningful activity sessions for older people in care settings, 80% of whom are living with dementia. Based on this experience, Alive has now developed a set of free conversation cards to support relatives, friends and carers, to build social connections and engage in meaningful conversations with people who are living with dementia.

All too often the families and friends of people diagnosed with dementia can feel alone and worried, knowing that the relationship with their loved one is going to change. It can sometimes be hard to know what to say or do when spending social time with someone whose needs or situation have changed so significantly. For staff working with older people, being able to know a person’s life history and form a relationship with them are key to providing high quality care.

Alive is the UK’s leading charity enriching the lives of older people and training their carers. Their vision is a world where older people in care live lives full of meaning, joy and opportunity. These new conversation cards help people to live well with dementia by supporting their sense of identity and social contact, as well as providing an enjoyable way to share special memories and experiences together. The free resource contains pages of illustrations and ideas that people can use as conversation prompts. Simple questions are themed around specific interests like gardening, school, travel and music; topics to which everyone can relate to. Designed by Alive’s specialist team, the conversation cards enable people living with dementia to recall and share memories more confidently.

The cards were piloted with people living with dementia and their families, friends, carers and care groups, and feedback from the trial was overwhelmingly positive.

Families reported that the questions “prompted humour, memory-searching, emotion but mostly pleasure and pride” (Janet, wife of Pete who is living with dementia). They allowed people to find out more about a person’s life and feel closer to them at a time when, so often, families feel like they are losing the person they knew.

Care staff too said the cards allowed them to provide better person-centred care and activity, by forming closer relationships and an appreciation of each individual’s rich life. “They have helped me to find out more information which we have been able to record on CMS. All staff then have access to more information about these residents.” Sally Harper, Activities Coordinator, Waypoints Care.

Alive’s Chief Executive, Simon Bernstein, says “Helping people with dementia to socialise with the people around them can keep them more active and engaged with life. As dementia develops it can become harder and harder for people to interact and converse with family members and friends who are also affected by these changes. This can lead to people living with the disease feeling alone and unable to connect with others. Research has shown that, on average, older people in care have only 2-3 minutes of meaningful inter-action a day which isn’t about their physical needs. Yet academic research shows as little as 10 minutes of meaningful conversation can have a positive impact on people’s wellbeing1. Alive is dedicated to improving the lives of older people and we hope this free resource will support loved ones and carers alike to feel close, providing a fun way to share special memories and experiences together when it matters most.”

With over 60 years combined experience providing creative arts sessions for older people, and training for their care staff, Alive are experts in communicating with people living with dementia. The charity has drawn on this experience to develop this set of easy to use conversation cards to enable anyone to connect with people living with the disease.

The cards are available as a free downloadable pdf from the Alive website https://aliveactivities.org/alive/en/resources/conversation-cards-for-dementia-/