Staff are faced each day with having particularly complex conversations with patients, conversations which can be very emotionally and intellectually demanding. These conversations might be exacting because a patient is in a very fraught state or because they have additional communication disadvantages such as dementia or psychotic symptoms.
Confusion and misinterpretation are often major features of these interactions. If you’re feeling confused, it’s likely to be much more bewildering for the patient who has the double challenge of mental illness and an additional communication complication.
You know what’s coming… mentalising. Trying to see things from the perspective of the patient and keeping track of what’s going on with your own thoughts and feelings. Yes, very demanding on top of all the other pressures of your work, but also incredibly satisfying when unexpected breakthroughs happen. And the need for a creative, patient-centred approach means that there’s tons of scope for interesting, fun, memorable experiences. A big reward for the respectful, tenacious interactions about issues that are important to the individual where you’re effectively harnessing your own and the patient’s motivation.
There’s a fabulous approach to communication with people who have profound and multiple learning disabilities, called intensive interaction. Intensive interaction is about using everything that your ‘communication partner’ provides, and because it’s designed for people who use little or no speech, body language and behaviour are carefully considered. A really valuable concept from intensive interaction is about taking the lead from the other person, building on the communication methods, style, pace etc they use, enjoy and can comfortably manage. The greater the person’s communication challenges are, the more this approach helps. It’s all about creative conversing – applying the full range of your personal qualities, imagination and artistic abilities.
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