In the UK alone, 700,000 people provide care to friends and family members who living with dementia.
Caring for a loved one who is living with dementia can be a stressful and sometimes isolating experience, but care partners in Greater Manchester can now take part in a trial of a course designed to improve communication and relationships with the person they support.
Empowered Conversations has been developed to help people adapt and improve communication skills and relationships with someone living with a diagnosis of dementia. The course includes issues such as specific communication techniques, ways of managing conflicts and working with difficult emotions.
Rachel cares for her mum who is living with dementia and has taken part in the Empowered Conversations trial. Rachel says,
“As my mum changed, the way we talked and communicated needed to change and we were trying really hard to work out how to do this as a family. It can be frustrating and confusing, and we found that other people struggled so some friends just stopped calling round which can be isolating and lonely. I think if people are worried about getting it wrong, they just avoid the situation instead.
“Empowered communication helps with all of that, you meet people who are working through the same challenges, similar feelings, you learn more about what helps. The things you learn help you to have better conversations with the person you love, you also get to meet some amazing people who are on the same kind of journey which makes it less lonely. I think that doing the course has helped me to stay better connected with my mum and I’d encourage others to try it.”
Building on previous research which found that Empowered Conversations can reduce carer stress and improve communication, the new study evaluates an online version of the course and will be used to investigate if it is practical to run a bigger trial in the future.
Who is eligible to take part?
Participants need to live in Greater Manchester and be the informal carer (a friend or family member) of someone living with dementia. They should be interested in taking part in a group course via Zoom and have the skills, technology, and English language skills to do this. Technical support may be available for people who are uncertain about taking part in the course online.
People who take part will complete a series of questionnaires (online or in a face-to-face interview) at the start of the study and again after 6 months. There is also an optional interview about taking part in the course and the trial, and an optional part to measure the level of dementia experienced by the person they support.
The study is a randomised control trial, which means that participants will be selected randomly to be in the ‘treatment group’ (taking part in the next available course) or in the ‘control group’ (being offered a place on the course after completing the 6-month questionnaires). There is a 66% chance of being in the treatment group and 33% chance of being in the control group. All participants will be offered a place on an Empowered Conversations course.
Get in touch
Led by the University of Manchester and Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, and in partnership with Age UK Salford, the University of Salford and Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust, the trial of the Empowered Conversations communication course is a two-year project funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Research for Patient Benefit programme.
To find out more, contact research associate Cassie Eastham on 0161 358 2505 or email email@example.com.
More information on the Empowered Conversations approach is available at www.empowered-conversations.co.uk or visit the Empowered Conversations YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/c/TheEmpoweredConversationsApproach.