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Interview: Angela Caughey talks about How to Communicate with Someone Who Has Dementia

This compact, practical book will help anyone caring for someone with dementia communicate better with them. It shows carers how to express their message effectively and helps them interpret more easily what the person with dementia is trying to convey, so that frustrations and stress are minimised, and the challenges of dementia are managed in a positive and respectful way. Author Angela Caughey talks to NZ Booklovers.


Tell us a little about How to Communicate with Someone Who Has Dementia.

Lots of people think of communicating as talking. Some of them think also of listening. Most of them aren’t aware that a large percentage of communication occurs via body language, which can be intended or unconscious. Explore that in communicating with someone with dementia, plus absorbing exhaustive advice and examples on how to communicate effectively, and hopefully you’ve got very meaty, useful new skills.

What inspired you to write this book?

I wrote the book because my publisher asked me to. She had picked out the aspects of communication in my previous book, “Dealing Daily with Dementia”, and thought it would only take about a month or two to put this book together. It took nearly twenty months!

What research was involved?

I needed to do little research, although I consulted pertinent literature in the library system. I had spent many years leading community groups in discussion about life in general, and specifically about the members’ attitudes and values. Considering ‘accurate communication’ was an integral part of what we talked about. My training for this work involved learning about the ins and outs of communication via Auckland University’s adult education classes.


What are three key tips from the book?

Respect the person you are looking after.

If you find them difficult, put aside your personal feelings and adopt a role of being a hospital nurse. (Hospital nurses are almost universally kind and cheerful with their patients.)

Learn about “I” messages, reflective listening and how to interpret body language.

What did you enjoy the most about writing this book?

I became increasingly satisfied with the amount I was learning while I wrote the book, but increasingly sad that I hadn’t known all this while I was looking after my husband with dementia.


What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?

I celebrated finishing the book by beginning to read voraciously - because I now had the time.


What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?

“The Great Fire”, by Shirley Hazzard, read in January, and therefore not remembered too well, but admirably written, and full of the author’s comments and philosophy, and “The Pigeon Tunnel”, by John le Carre, which had me chuckling and also learning a lot about the world of spies.

What’s next on the agenda for you?

I’ve already resumed work on two books I’d put aside to write this one: a children’s book about the life of our lovable, wicked West Highland terrier, Jethro, and an account of my married life for the family.


Purchase the book.

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