CC Talking Mats Ease Communication


By Pamela D. Wilson, CSA, MS, BS/BA, CG

As memory loss progresses, communication becomes more difficult for the individual and for the caregiver. Many of us have been in situations where we tried to find words, complete sentences and maintain the flow of a conversation with an individual with memory loss.  Under time constraints, communication becomes more difficult as patience is lost.  With abundant time, communication becomes playful and often enjoyable.

The Joseph Roundtree Foundation supported a research study focusing on communication with individuals diagnosed with various types of dementia.  Talking mats have been used in Europe for over ten years to improve communication with moderate and late stage dementia.

Mother DaughterThe mats use pictures and allow people to communicate verbally and non-verbally and are relatively inexpensive.  Because discussions with talking mats take more time, their use is sometimes seen more as an activity.

The talking mat is basically a black piece of cloth or black cloth placed on a small board. Small cards with photos of individuals showing emotions through smiles or laughter, food items, cards representing hobbies like music, gardening etc. are placed on the board for discussion.

The concept is so simple that just about anyone can make their own talking mat by using a piece of black cloth and finding flash cards with photos of people, emotions, hobbies etc.  This is a great concept not only for family caregivers but for activity directors at retirement communities.

© 2008, 2013 Pamela D. Wilson, All Rights Reserved

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