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4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 2 January 2009
I have been battling with my mum for five years. Then I got this book, nothing prepared me for the gentle but very necessary slap around the face when I read it. Wow, I had spent so much time arguing and thinking that I had to keep my mum in my idea of reality when logically now I see I needed to enter her frame of logic in order to keep her calm, happy and oh so much more fun to be around!! if you only buy one book to help you work out your care plan, buy this one, dont hesitate, just buy it, I have asked everyone I know to read this book, its fab, next stop to go on the accompanying course. If you would like to talk about dementia, email me!! we can moan together xx
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on 11 August 2009
Practical, helpful, sensitive, comforting, illuminating, brilliant, constructive - yes, it is all that, and more. Don't take (too much) notice of the negative reviewers as you really shouldn't miss this book. Infused with compassion and kindness (RARE qualities these days), the advice was developed by someone who clearly has a talent for non-confrontation and small talk, both of which it is wise to learn early on in your loved one's journey of confusion. Whether it is called dementia, alzheimer, memory loss, forgetfulness doesn't matter to those of us who are in pain watching our loved one deteriorate and struggle with their new and unfamiliar circumstances, and who want to find ways to make it hurt less - for them as well as ourselves.

This refreshingly positive book immediately takes away a lot of the suffering, and the judgments, for both "sides", at least in the earlier stages. We cannot (yet) speak about later stages but we feel SO different about the situation after reading this book - we've now read a great deal about memory matters and can vouch for the fact that no "expert" in clinical practice has made anything like the kinds of loving and caring PRACTICAL suggestions and procedures spelled out in this book, which we started putting into practice immediately. So what if it seems like "infantilising" the sufferer, who in our experience certainly did not feel we were doing this but who immediately brightened up and was much happier with our new approach.

Unfortunately, there are some situations even this book cannot help us with - how do you deal with an elderly person who is very upset - every single evening - because mother (dead 50 years) is late for supper and who won't accept any of the excuses you dream up?

As indicated in real-life stories given in the book, we also have noticed (from carers sharing stories at support groups) that the sufferer's partner is likely to find it very difficult to accept what is happening or to readily adopt the methods set out in this book. It IS hard to change the relationship habits of a long lifetime and the carer-partner is likely to have health challenges as well, which can make things even more difficult. The book is as much for them as for the direct victim of this horrible, slow-acting plague.

SPECAL, as the method is called, can transform (and has actually done so) some of the experiences of the dementia sufferer and of those around him/her.

LATER NOTE: I recently learned, to my sorrow, that several established dementia organisations now are against SPECAL, although they were originally in favour. As a result, the SPECAL charity expects to run out of money soon. If you want to attend a workshop on this method, don't delay!
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on 16 February 2010
`Contented Dementia'. Never have two words been more important in our lives: just as my sister and I were getting desperate last summer (2009) about the relentless debilitating march of our mother's Alzheimer's, we heard of `Contented Dementia' by Oliver James. This book is the distillation of twenty years' work of a remarkable woman, Penny Garner, and all her experience of close, personal hands-on caring: first for her mother who fell victim to Alzheimer's, then for countless other Alzheimer's sufferers whom she has helped achieve contentment despite their deteriorating condition. Penny's no mind-altering-drugs method is deeply person-centered, and involves not questioning the person; letting them be the `expert' on their situation; and not contradicting them. The whole system is known as the SPECAL (Specialized Early Care for Alzheimer's) Method - pronounced `speckle' - , and is influenced by the monitoring tool Dementia Care Mapping developed by Tom Kitwood, professor of Psychogerontology at Bradford University in the 1990s. It's logical, workable and practical: an A-Z of "wraparound care" that both family carers and professionals can easily use.

Our mother Eileen was `disappearing' away from us with her Alzheimer's, and this amazingly helpful book has brought our mother `back' to us. We've rediscovered the real Eileen that her illness had started obscuring. With SPECAL care, our mum can be happy, contented, and very good company again - not the lonely frightened isolated paranoid old lady she had started to become.

This book showed us that our mother simply could no longer store new information efficiently. This was our key to unlock our mother from her growing isolation, from her frustrations, from her fears and her resultant panics and paranoia. She can happily talk about the past, but not what has just happened moments before. We have had to learn a new skill - `Making a Present of the Past'®, as SPECAL puts it.

This advice instantly changed how we related to our mother and she to us. Suddenly the arguments and rows stopped, and the despair faded as we zoned into her version of the world, a world with no stored memories of recent facts.

We have learned how to enter into our mother's new world, to enjoy with her her own images and experiences, not to contradict her, but to join her in her own space, and to follow her smiling and contented - and we have learned to love repetition!

It is no exaggeration to say all our lives have been totally changed by `Contented Dementia' - and also by the wonderful email and phone help-lines, along with the day's training we also chose to do in Burford, UK, in September.

If I get Alzheimers, this is how I want to be cared for: the SPECAL way.

I recommend this book wholeheartedly: a life-saver for dementia sufferers and carers alike. A huge thanks to Oliver James for setting down all Penny's fantastic wisdom and experience. With dementia becoming such a massive social issue, the sooner more people are aware of the SPECAL way of caring the better.
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on 17 February 2010
This book has helped me to understand what it is like from the demented person point of view, in my mother's case the total loss of a 'photograph' of the event or conversation in question. The solution seems to be an awful lot of note-taking to revive memories and loads of patience to survive the constant repetition of questions and statements but I am working on it. And every case is different but having a tool to use makes one feel more positive.
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on 14 May 2009
The basic idea is that you should 'go with the flow' when dealing with dementia sufferers and not try to encourage or force them to behave more normally. Repeated questioning, for example, although tempting as a way to get the sufferer to exercise and test his or her memory, usually makes things worse. The book works well around this approach in a readable style and will be useful to anyone trying to cope with this problem.
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I pray that someone looks after me in my dotage with the same amount of care and personal attention that this 'therapeutic intervention' suggests.I read this book over 2 days. I didn't want to put it down until I'd got to the end.It is NOT a 'one-size fits all'. Oliver stresses in every chapter how making the approach of losing one's memory individual to the person is key. You are asked to observe and really know your 'client' so that the help you are offering is understood and trusted. Unless you have ever lost your memory (and I have) you can never understand how questions cause anguish. How can you answer when you don't have means of accessing your memory to reply? Maybe the methods seem mad but when you're dealing with something to do with an ailing mind, the caring, detailed approach is tantamount and that's not mad it's incredibly sane.
This book revolves around an emotional, loving plan to make the safety of your 'client's' well-being achievable. I'm glad I read this book which arrived at just the right time for me. It's written by the son-in-law (Oliver) of a lady (Penny) who's mother (Dorothy) suffered dementia in her final days.
Dorothy was married to a GP who just couldn't get his head around the idea that his wife was not going to 'snap out' of her condition. By trial and error Penny developed a frame of mind and practical approach that would help her Mum cope with the handicap of being lost in the past. She uses the phrase 'experiencing the present through the past'. It's hard to sum-up someone's life's work in a few words but if you have any hesitation in buying this book, just imagine how glad you'll feel when you've got the holy grail of dementia in your hands and a workable solution to all your difficulties. This is a true sanity saver, for your relative or 'client' and for you, the carer. I wish you well:)
I have now put into practice the suggestions given in this book for my own 88yr old mother who has Alzheimers....and my sister has read it too. Mum is happy, we're happy, the carers are all happy, what more can you ask?
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on 31 August 2009
I do so wish that Penny Garner and Oliver James had produced this book 20 years ago. I was involved in caring for people with dementia over an 18 year period and, had SPECAL been around,I could have eased them through their dementia instead of just managing their anguish. I did adopt some SPECAL strategies instinctively even though the were in total opposition to all the training I'd had in the past .... and it worked. I'm now involved in training carers/support workers and fully intend to promote the SPECAL approach.
The book is easy to read, very understandable, make perfect sense and in no way did I feel it was patronising. Read it for yourself, try it for yourself and make your own judgement.
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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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on 17 May 2015
My other was recently diagnosed with this awful condition. A friend recommended this book to me. I’ve read it through twice and whilst it is packed with tremendously useful and helpful information about Dementia and how it can help both sufferers and carer alike I have given a three star review here as I found it a hard book to read.
Let me qualify that by saying it’s probably because it’s a bit too close to home with it affecting a parent.
The information contained in the book is first class and does reinforce what I’ve learned elsewhere about Dementia (as well as introducing me to all sorts of other things) and what I can do to help my mother and other people involved in helping her I still found it difficult to read.
Information inside – excellent. Three stars simply because of it being a hard (personal) subject.
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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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