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VINE VOICEon 14 August 2008
How do we cope... how do we respond... how do we help those we love who experience dementia? This book gives sensitive guidance on how to help those with degrees of dementia by our words and actions, to make their lives more contented. For us it's early days, for us this is the first real vehicle for constructive help.
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on 8 April 2009
If you know or live with someone with dementia, you will know how difficult life can be for both of you. I recently came across this insightful book offering advice and techniques devised by a lady called Penny Garner who, by observing her own mother's behaviour and working with patients at a community hospital, developed new skills to communicate with someone with dementia.

The aim of the book is to promote "lifelong well-being" not only for the sufferer but for the "carer" too who has to cope with typical dementia behaviour such as memory blanks and repetitive questioning. Being asked the same question over and over again in a matter of minutes can be devastating for all concerned as I've experienced first hand with my own 85 year old mother.

Penny Garner's son-in-law, Oliver James, has brought together various tried-and-tested techniques in this book. One I've found particularly useful is to identify the most frequent questions my Mum asks me. Then, instead of giving the same reply each time, the book suggests looking for a variety of answers and trying them out to find the one that receives the best reaction. What I like about this approach is that it keeps me focussed on the quality of my own responses and whilst it hasn't completely stopped me feeling frustrated at the constant repetition, it has helped me better understand my Mum's mental processes affected by dementia.
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VINE VOICEon 20 September 2010
My wife read a paper review of this book and subsequently I looked up the reviews in Amazon. We then decided to at least give it a try with such glowing reviews. Our loved one is in the early stages of dementia, but is very much tuned to living on memories from the past. these memories are increasingly becoming less factual. The short term memory is also becoming a problem for the loved one and ourselves. Increasingly the client (name given to subject from this book) is living in a negative world, anything misplaced has been stolen, people are criticising the client about all matter of things. People are watching the client, curtains are drawn, doors locked and bolted even with us in the house, a mobile phone given to the client for emergencies is switched off and hidden away to stop people watch the client through it.
I have only recently finished reading the book and in that short time have started to use the methods suggested in the book. What a change, the world is certainly beginning to change for the client and us. I have recommended reading the book to other members of family and hope that we will be able to agree a course of action based on the method therein. Thus you will see that I am at present pleased with the book's recommendations.

If you have someone you care or are caring for with dementia, no matter at what stage, buy and read this book. It talks a lot of sense and you might find life easier for your client and you. What have you got to lose.
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on 1 September 2009
this is a very innovative and interesting concept that ensures the biggest burden for an individual with dementia, THE TRADITIONAL APPROACH to caring is not used,tasks such as making beds washing laundry and cleaning floors should not the most important roles of a carer, the individual and what is important to them should. In this book Penny gives the carer food for thought in that she offers an alternative by allowing the individual with dementia to remain in control of what they feel are important to them and therefore as the book's title they are content. Superb use of exercises for the carer to practice using the 'golden rules' such as not asking questions, not quite as easy as it sounds. I found this book a breath of fresh air in an area of care that does suffer from being at the back of the queue so to speak with regard to assisting the carer in there totally demanding role
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on 6 December 2015
Both my siblings live a few doors from my elderly parents but have a lot of personal distractions and rarely visit them. My father has Alzheimers and my mother is his main carer although professional carers do come in for a few hours every day. I live several hours drive away. Once a month I visit my parents for a few hours, bringing lunch and a stock of home made luxury food for the freezer. They say they love this and it gives them something to look forward to. A few days ago my mother said out of the blue on the phone that she does not want me to come any more and they do not want any more food either. She said it kindly but firmly. When I asked why, she said that she could not cope with their routine being disrupted. I spent a few days in frozen hurt and confusion, trying to work put what I could have done to cause this. The situation was hard to reconcile with the usual self-imposed feeling that I should make time to visit more often. Then I received a letter from my mother in erratic writing saying that she had deteriorated mentally very suddenly and felt frightened all the time and was frightened of me seeing her like this. I realised that I need to gain a better understanding of what my parents may be going through and how to help or at least accommodate it, so I have chosen this book. I am a calm, empathic person, soft and never snappy, bossy or corrective with my parents' growing absent mindedness. But if I had had more awareness then I would not have had to endure those few days of childlike misery before my mother's explanatory letter arrived. Childhood hurts surfaced and I had even thought "I'm not being treated this. If they want to see me again they will have to apologise." When I received her letter I realised that next time my mother might not be able to provide an explanation and that it is down to me to gain a better understanding of what my parents may be going through. I hope this book might help and will update this review when I've read it.
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on 28 July 2014
I cannot recommend this book too highly.

I was the full time carer for my mother who had rheumatoid arthritis for 13 years. Last July 2013 mum started to stutter and have hallucinations. This was unexpected and very worrying. Her behaviour changed and by September the Doctors expected dementia. Such a diagnosis was devastating for both of us. Mum deteriorated very quickly and by November the dementia had become very pronounced.
There is very little practical help out there. So I googled it and found this book. Having read the reviews I decided to buy it.
The book helps the carer, me to understand the disease and by doing so helps you help the person. I had already fallen into the trap of 'common sense' approach which had made these worse. This was a reaction to the diagnosis. I think I did this to try and reverse the changes I saw. The common sense approach of repeating things and correcting the person as if by reinforcing things it will help the memory loss. In fact this approach has the opposite effect of only increasing their anxiety and pushes their loss of memory to the fore! The person with dementia becomes very anxious and reacts very badly to it. What the book helps you with is practical approach to the disease. Effectively by setting the right mood by your responses you can calm and ensure a contentment for you and the loved one suffering this 'for them' a terrifying disease. Oliver James approach is about focusing on the person and making them more contented which greatly helps you as the carer manage. Mum had vascular dementia which was very rapid. I cared for mum until she died this April. In the end I was pleased I did it and she died happy and contented with the people who loved her. It was difficult and there were hard times but with the help of this book it can be done.
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on 10 September 2012
This book became our means of communication ACROSS the family. Decision making for just one daughter is hard enough, but we are five daughters all wanting to care for our mother. We needed one method that guided us, and this book made that happen.
Our mother has Alzheimer's with Vascular complications, which was diagnosed 4 years ago. As each of us read this book, we each reacted the same way; "oh, that's so obvious, how stupid I have been not to see that". For years we each went ahead with our prefered method of caring for her and meanwhile were confusing her further as she attempted to remember to behave differently for each daughter. How cruel that was with hindsight. Now we have the guide that allows us to easily agree on what to do and how to be. It's also meant we know what needs to be done in advance, how to be prepared to smooth the way ahead.
Mum is now a very contented woman, at home joking and laughing, no longer paranoid or agressive, and on only aricept. We guide our unified actions on how each thing makes her feel, and spend our time where it is needed most; in building her confidence through her ever decreasing themes.
You HAVE to read the book, or go on the course, to understand how simple your life as a carer could become. Don't let the 'system' bully you into cruel behaviours you will forever regret, but instead find out that you can love her/him how you always wanted to. Thank you Penny Garner for making all our lives return to harmony during a difficult time in our lives.
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on 22 March 2012
I live a long way from my Grandmother - sadly I only see her about once a month. She was diagnosed with dementia about 6 months ago. Until I read and implemented some the advice given in this book, my visits were a nightmare. Gran was agitated, she would repeat over and over that her life was 'terrible' , that no one understood her, she was lonely... Endless repetition, like meditating on a nightmare. When I got back home after my visits I was frequently upset for days after and was starting to dread visiting. I had no idea how full time carers coped.
This book has transformed the limited time I have with her. Frequently, now, we have moments where it feels like the younger, unique, funny woman that she was is back with me. She still has so much to offer. I am ashamed to say that before I read this book, I was starting to forget.
Whatever your relationship is with a dementia sufferer, be it full time carer or long distance granddaughter - I heartily recommend this book. Use the bits in it that work, leave the bits that are unrealistic, for example, if you don't have the resources.
This book has given me just a bit more time with my lovely granny.
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on 29 August 2009
A fabulous book, which has inspired me & my mother to try the approach with my father. Well-written and clear techniques that you can use at your own pace. Takes some of the fear away after an Altzheimer's diagnosis.
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on 8 August 2013
I recently discussed the `photograph album' analogy of dementia, as described in this book, with a newly diagnosed client. He said 'Yes, that's exactly what it feels like, but you're the first person I've met who understands that.' As a mental health professional working with older adults, I have encountered various approaches to dementia care. On first reading, this one seemed counter-intuitive, but once I understood memory in terms of this analogy, it made perfect sense. More importantly, when I tried the techniques with my patients, they actually worked. I learned how to promote choice without asking baffling questions, and to ease people with dementia into the present through their own past experience. Far from being any kind of 'one-size-fits-all' system, this SPECAL method takes person-centred care to a very high level and helps family, friends and professionals to communicate with the person behind the disability. I only wish I had known about this when my mother-in-law had dementia.
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