Contented Dementia? I don’t think so

[The following blog – written in 2009 – still represents my views, but please also see a later blog of mine and its useful link to an Alzheimer’s Society position paper on Contented Dementia, which I think states a very similar opinion but with far more authority. RDN, 30 July 2013]

Oliver James has written some silly and poorly-argued books and it would have been nice if Contented Dementia, his new offering, was an exception. It isn’t.

Dr James’s new thesis is, as he proudly acknowledges, someone else’s. His mother-in-law, Penelope Garner, is the inventor of the methods it describes. The thesis is that all patients with dementia can be made pretty happy provided they are not challenged about anything very much and especially about the recent past and their view of it. The trick is never to ask them questions but instead to find trigger themes from their past about which they can be confident, and thus indulged and comforted.

I happen to spend an inordinate amount of time with two individuals over 90 and neither of them has Alzheimer’s (so far as I know). They may have a touch of dementia. Frankly, I wouldn’t know. They are both in different and varying ways not altogether with-it, though both are capable of being very sharp, and very seldom politically-correct. Still, I recognise the soundness of some of Dr James’s case in that there is not always much point in asking very old people questions. “What would you like for supper?” is quite likely to be met with a blank stare and a vaguely anxious look, as though one was Bruce Forsyth asking a quiz question about the conveyor belt on The Generation Game. But I find asking questions often seems to stir up batty old people and helps them wake up and get with the programme and rediscover the means of enjoying their present. Without lively interrogation and challenge, they seem to sink into gloom.

OK, you say, but those old people haven’t got Alzheimer’s and maybe not dementia – they’re just a bit do-lally – so what would you know?

I know enough to be suspicious of James. It seems dubious to lump dementias and Alzheimer’s together as though they were like each other. I think he is wrong to reach for a simple mechanism and insist that it works for all patients with whatever degree of illness. I know he is horribly and probably incurably immodest, though his own accounts of the lessons Penny Garner has learned from other practitioners (page 14, page 20) suggest that their technique is not a fresh discovery, but rather a radical version of what plenty of other carers have found out for themselves. I doubt all questions are toxic, as he asserts. I doubt all patients need to be indulged in lies as much as he supposes.

Oliver James fails one crucial test of my own devising: the Cuckoo Metric. It comes from my irritation at the Laingian nonsense popularised by One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Here I am in full flow:

“These sins include saying the well have much to learn from the unwell; that it’s the unwell who are sane, really; and that institutions never really understand their inmates.”

Contented Dementia is full of statements such as:

“With Dorothy’s [a sufferer’s] help, Penny was beginning to get the hang of what dementia was like.”

What he might reasonable say, in this and several other cases like it, is that Penny was working out what her patients needed, and doing it by working with them. But they weren’t teaching her, and weren’t the experts in their condition, and it is specious to say otherwise. And of course the USP of his book is that he and Penny are super-right and everyone else has got it pretty wrong.

So this is a poor book because it wildly over-reaches itself. When I wondered whether I had anything like the expertise to opine on it, I at first comforted myself that its failing were open to logical as opposed to merely medical challenge. And then I googled the title and found that the Alzheimer Society dislikes the book in much the same terms as I do. What I merely suspect or can deduce, they assert from experience.


L White
Whilst I appreciate your argument, I feel you are missing the point. Anyone who reads the book thinking that the activities sound easy or that the results will be easily applied are rather misguided. Nowhere in the book does James state that dealing with dementia is an easy task, moreover, it highlights the fact that managing someone with dementia is time consuming and wearisome. I read the book and the anecdotal nature allowed me to better understand what it would be like to have short term memory loss and appreciate why individuals with dementia act the way they do. He has turned what may be described as a dry medical subject into something with an actual application.
Dr. Margo Karsten
Mr. North, I strongly disagee with your statements. I have researched "SPECAL" care and found empirical studies which demonstrate the effectiveness of this approach. I have also implemented the concepts into my own mother's care, and it has had a significantly positive impact on her overall wellbeing. I commend both Oliver and Penny for spending over 20 years evalutating the effectiveness of SPECAL and now publishing their insights for all of us to benefit from! It is one of the most positive books written about dementia, and I recommend it to everyone I meet!
paul filsell
I have had over thirty years of looking after people with dementia and this book highlights what I have known and practised for many years. It should be compulsory learning for everyone involved in this type of care.
Michael Rowan
Dear Mr North I couldn't disagree with you more and am only sorry that I didn't come across your review or analysis of Contented Dementia, With both parents suffering from dementia I had every opportunity to see what worked and can honestly say that this book saved my sanity and equipped me to deal with what lay ahead. I also had a comparitor as the other carer felt like you and I know who got the best results! Agree with the comment above this book should be prescribed to anyone trying to care for someone with dementia
Sylvie Clayden
Hello. I am an Occupational Therapist whose community work in " Health " has driven me to want to specialise in Dementia, find a platform and a voice for these people. I am another advocate of Penny Garner`s approach and am disappointed that the Alzheimers` Society reject it. I feel they hold too much power and would like them to change their name to The Dementia Society as they support all forms of dementia. Anything positive and proactive for this group of people gets my support - we must stop patronising them and medicalising them - acceptance is all and engaging in the SPECAL sense way is positive. The tone of your article is angry, why is this ? Best Wishes Sylvie Clayden
Dear S, Thanks for that. To deal with the "angry" point first. I hope it isn't true, but if I was sparky then that is because I have for many years been at loggerheads with much of Oliver James's "Britain on the Couch" and "Affluenza" material. In particular, I haven't liked his handling of evidence nor his egotistical tirumphalism (if I may be so sparky as to call it that). Coming to the "Contented Dementia" material, I wanted to point out that many elements of his case are sound and have been known to be so for several or many years (as I know not least from his book). So I think the risk of the OJ writing is that it renders universally applicable what needs to be selectively considered and it suggests an embattled, visionary status for his campaign which would be better framed as a candidate for being useful rather than as a unique bastion of truth in a bad world.
Sylvie Clayden
Dear Richard My reply is very simple - it is not a bad world.I feel there is something in your way and it is not Oliver James - only you know the answer to that - let`s say you are passionate as opposed to angry - I am sure you can turn that into something positive.Being negative is rarely productive and it doesn`t feel good! Heaps Sylvie
Richard, just found your site after researching Contented Dementia for a relative. Out of interest what informs your judgements of mental health issues and the work of Oliver James - is your background in this area? Regards, Jonathan Guidance Counsellor
RDN’s reply
Jonathan, My experience of mental health issues is slight. A long time ago I read Bettelheim and Laing and Foucault. I saw "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest". Much more recently, I have looked quite carefully at the Seligman and positive psychology work - and find it fascinating and wanting. Like everyone, I have been close to people with depression. I have several man years' experience of caring for and catering to very old people. On OJ's dementia work, it may be worth reminding you that my beef with his book was not based on huge experience: rather it was a matter of suggesting that his large conclusions did not flow well from the evidence he quoted. (One got the impression that lots of people have pioneered this territory whilst knowing that it is wise not to be overly proscriptive.) This is a matter of textual analysis as much as my experience. However, I did point out that the book seemed to conflate the business of dealing with ageing or failing mental faculties with the business of dealing with Alzheimer's. I know something about the former and can say that very old people do indeed have difficulty with dealing with some sorts of questions; but they seem positively to respond well to some sorts of challenge. It seems tricky to base a strategy on never asking questions or posing challenges. It's a matter of horses for courses. My point was that one needs to go rather modestly into this territory and that doing so seems supported by the evidence in OJ's book (and by the AS view of it), but not by OJ's typically grandiose and sweeping generalisations. So: never mind my experience of mental health. My long experience of book-reviewing may help you to unpick OJ's book a bit. Or you may think OJ's book easily survives what you think are my ill-considered (and what you may freely call uninformed) remarks. On my experience of OJ's other work Britain On the Couch sort of work, I think I understand the "happiness" and "well-being" data rather better than OJ (or, come to that, the authors of "The Spirit Level"). That again is a matter of looking at the data and talking clearly about what it says, as a matter of text and logic, more than mental health experience.
B. Malone
Richard, it is very hard to see, when your head is up your ass! I'm not a caregiver or Doctor, but I do know a naysayer when I hear one.
Carol Lintern
Interesting reading Richard. Penny is labelling what many carers supporting people with dementia strive towards. You have to really 'be' with that person to learn and promote wellbeing- a very selfless request and we are all different.
Whether you like Oliver James style or not he is writing up a practitioner based method from a small charity offering techniques to help desperate carers. These techniques have been a life line to many of us because they work. Nobody is yet able to cure dementia but you can make it more tolerable. Anyone interested in cost-benefit analysis would do well to add up the long line of professionals involved with my relative and compare this to a method to ease anxiety and help the carer empathise which gives results and relief. The thesis about feelings remaining even when facts have gone links to a Univeristy of Iowa study where two groups of dementia patients watched a sad or happy film. They could not remember the film but their mood reflected what they had seen. There is now a film with case studies of how people used this approach. Do re-consider, Richard. There really is something here worthy of further investigation. I
RDN’s reply
Dear Deborah, I am thrilled OJ's book has helped you with the your caring issues. I don't know what I have to say to make it clear that I comepletely see how such a book and such a campaign may help people. I only said that the OJ approach was too simplistically triumphalist and universalist.
Glenda Shaw
Don't make such stupid comments until you've spent some time at Burford and see for yourself, "It Works". I've spent many hours there and use the methods every dayin my job. Senior Support Officer 55+ Team Oxford City
Judy Stevenson
I am currently reading Contented Dementia after purchasing the Photograph Album. As with most self help books there are nuggets of useful information. I can imagine that it is very difficult to use this approach in a care home setting. With most large chains of care homes employing foreign workers on the lowest hourly wage - understandably they barely have time to do the routine tasks of bathing, washing and feeding let alone the language or interpersonal skills required to make meaningful use of the Specal method to build relationships. I am yet to be convinced but I am willing to give it a chance as I am desperate to integrate a live in carer with my dad.
Hi All I know is that using Penny Garner's suggestions with my Mum really worked. My Mum was happy rather than being challenged, confused and stressed, And we enjoyed quality time together with her telling me with confidence about things she knew about; her childhood, her Dad, her helping her Dad with the chickens. Before that my Mum was frightened and confused. I found a place in her life that she remembered and where she was incredibly happy and we talked about that. I learnt to love the repetition because it was only a problem for me! It worked for us. Why would we want to upset an old lady that doesnt remember anymore. That would use cruel.
Ethelle Lord, DM
I know two professionals from Denven, CO who took Penny Garner's training and became certified in this method of providing care for persons living with Alzheimer's. It is my understanding that you really have to see it to believe it. As a result of the international conference on Alzheimer's I attended in Tampa, FL in September 2012, I am going to look more deeply into this method to see how I can begin to promote it to facilities who provide such care. We need better care in order to provide a better quality of life. What we are doing at the present is really not working and burning out our workforce. Administrators and managers are operating from crisis to crisis. That's not good. This is a proven method that has been tested and works. It is time we open our minds and our hearts to provide the best care possible. ~ Ethelle Lord, DM at Remembering4You
Enid Moulder
Dear Richard, having attended 4 days training at the Contented Dementia Trust; talked with lots of people using the SPECAL method; what I know from my own exoerience when my Mother had Alzheimers; and the Amazon reviews of OJs book; I can only say like so many others - it works. Following the SPECAL method substantially reduces anxiety, emotional turmoil and stress for the person with dementia, and carers. It can also provide the framework for life long, wrap around care,and there are care homes out there who are now offering the SPECAL method. If everyone insists on that as a minimum bench mark for those they love who have Alzheimers then more care homes will adopt SPECAL. What concerns me most is if this comment which is on the first page when the Trust is googled or the oh so wrong Alzhimers Societies statement puts even one person off finding out more about the SPECAL method, it is the carer and the person with dementia who will suffer most. Not you. We may not like Olivers style, but you are in danger of drowning the baby in the bath water, - rather worse than throwing the baby out, you understand! :-) - this is a small charity and right now needs every bit of support it can get. Please visit the website, find out more and donate.something - and that is a general appeal. Thank you, Richard, for providing us all with the opportunity to air our views. Enid.
I looked this up after hearing Penny Garner on the radio today. I wonder how this approach works with sufferers of confabulation as part of their dementia - who for example will swear to you that they have eaten when all evidence shows they have not - do you not argue but rather leave them to go hungry? Washed when they obviously have not...etc. I am just trying to illustrate that it will not work in all cases - I noticed that no answer was forthcoming on the radio when the following question was asked "what do you do when 'father' asks when lunch is 10 minutes after he has eaten it". Three examples of what you should not do but no answer to the question!
Witsend: please do read the book, I think your questions will be answered. Richard: The Specal method is only for people who have received a diagnosis of dementia. This means they have lost or are losing the ability to process and record new data and memories. There are many forms of dementia and Alzheimer's is just one of them. It is not, and Penny Garner and Oliver James have never suggested that it is, suitable for people who have normal age related memory issues. As others have suggested above, I recommend that you go and visit the Contented Dementia Trust at Burford and observe the results of their work. This breakthrough and drug free process is as valuable to to those suffering from this distressing and terminal condition and their carers as Dame Cicely Saunders' hospice movement is to sufferers of cancer and other potentially painful terminal diseases. I, for one, sincerely hope it's value will soon be fully recognised.
Andrew Reece
Richard why bother writing about something if you have no experience of it? Comparing the vagueness of an older person to dementia is like comparing the effects of one glass of wine to the that of 3 tabs of acid. In my last job I used to oversee a care home for people with dementia. Using this method they managed to wean all their residents off anti-psychotic medication within weeks of them coming in. How much more contented can you be than that? Can you show me any other way of supporting people with dementia that can show similar results?
I am sorry that by oversight I didn't post this comment in a more timely way. Sorry about that. Partly in response to Andrew Reece's comment, I have added a rider to the top of this blog and hope that helps.
I have been in crisis situation for 2 months now as my mum's dementia got worse and my dad at 81 had a nervous breakdown. My mum was sectioned as this was the only way we could get medical attention after weeks of being passed from pillar to post by various Dr's, agencies and health workers. Mum who is now diagnosed as 'moderate' alzheimers is still in an elderly psychiatric centre alongside much much worse cases and violent incidents occuring daily. The word that sums up this ongoing situation is harrowing. The only ray of hope I have is the contented dementia method and I have been lucky to find a care agency who are training themselves in it. I read the book - it made sense. I have been implementing what I understand of it with my mum - and it does indeed keep her happy. Which, frankly, is all that matters!
Bron Grillo
Have been trying out SPECIAL on my friend with good results. Actually a remarkable turn around in our relationship. Now how can I tell her husband and family about this different approach. Her husband is worrying about the family Xmas. I said try lots of singing she loves that. He looked at me so doubtfully thinking I suppose that's it's not that simple living as he does with her red alert moods. But it is that simple - I always cheer her up immediately now when I visit having a better idea of what worries her and talking a fair bit of nonsense. My husband hates Oliver James deeply. So I am grateful to Richard North for expressing views that tally with and explain my husband s dislike. No question OJ oversimplifies. Sounds like an American miracle cure ad. Why should we believe such a man. Well in this case because he's definitely onto something. And good luck to Frank Sinatra!
I am delighted by Bron Grillo's comment and grateful for it. One understands from so many sources and some personal experience that singing and poetry and dancing seem to reach past some forms of mental incapacities and find bits of the mind which work well, or well enough, and bring comfort. As Bron says, thank goodness for Sinatra. And Browning, in my experience with 90 year olds.
Paul Jackson
I just spent time at Burford as part of a large working party smartening the place up. I found my self talking to volunteers who nearly all had a positive experience as their loved ones had been at Burford. Why are so many people anti? What harm dies it seems to do a lot of good?
Susan Hughes
I found the advice in "Contented Dementia" very helpful as my mother had dementia in her later years. Questioning only brings confusion unless it's about something easy eg do you like this scarf? Trying to contradict is useless and unkind eg Don't say that your mother isn't coming because she's dead but divert the conversation to memories of mum. This is not lying which would be equally unkind. Just two examples of the good and kind sense that Oliver James writes. Has Mr North actually lived with anyone with dementia? I do not like his use of the word "batty" even in jest.
Martin Corrick
I have Alzheimers, and from my point of view the very worst thing is to get angry about it. I experience quite enough anger as it is - I can't help getting furious with myself when I fail at things that were once easy, second nature. It is extremely frustrating. For example, I have just been trying to change my mobile phone connection, having bought a flash new phone, and got in such a mess that I will have to take it to the Vodafone shop to sort out. That's a small example, but I know things will get very much worse, and I like the idea of taking things slowly and calmly, working with patients and listening to them. Nobody, I guess, knows exactly what is best for us, but Richard North's tone seems absolutely counter-productive. Above all, care of dementia patients must surely be based on calmness, warmth, humour and a serious attempt to understand the needs and anxieties of individuals.
Pearl Wilson
Reading this site as I'm just about to acquire 2 more copies of this book to give to some people whose mother is developing dementia. It was recommended to us when a friend's mother was developing the curse. Most of her family read it and it has made eventual acceptance of the problem and how to handle it, much easier for all concerned. Obviously, everything in the book will not apply to 'your case', but it sure helps to know that what is happening is pretty 'normal' for this type of infliction. Unless you have had to contend with someone with dementia on a 24/7 basis, you can have absolutely NO idea of how frustrating and demoralising it can be - not so much for the 'client' but for the carer and others trying to deal with it.
Mary Lou Zeeman
Mr. North, The SPECAL method has worked wonders for our family of extremely sharp individuals. Your criticisms of the method illustrate a lack of understanding. The method does not advocate avoiding lively engagement with people with dementia. Instead it gives practical tips for how to change that engagement from stressful to pleasant for them. If your friends in their 90's don't have dementia, then no wonder you don't see the need for the method. But perhaps they do. Why not try an experiment? When you want to solicit their opinion on something, phrase the question as "I wonder blah blah blah", and leave it hanging in the air for them to pick up or not as they wish. Try not to say anything without the "Oh, that's interesting. I wonder..." preface, or some such, for an entire conversation, Perhaps you will find the conversation goes a little deeper than usual. How sad to try to dissuade people from trying something that has worked such miracles for so many families, at such an important transitional time in the family dynamic.
Martin Murray
You were honest to state at the outset that you had it in for Oliver James, so I shouldn't have bothered to read any more, however curiosity got the better of me. The big laugh was you ascribing egotistical triumphalism to Oliver James in a diatribe that dripped with both. The serious point, though, is that you entirely overlooked the fact that he was attempting to describe an approach that had been painstakingly developed over 20 years by someone else and had proved immensely helpful to many, many people. You can make all the criticisms you like about his style and I fully accept many of yours but the fundamental insight represented by the 'photograph album' analogy is powerful, simple and repeatable (the three basic requirements of a good theory) and therefore very useful. You can opine till the cows come home but the facts on the ground support the theory. The head in sand view is to believe that you can interact successfully with a dementia sufferer in the usual way you interact with a non-sufferer. Unfortunately this seems to have been enshrined as political gospel by many the organisations currently involved in providing relevant services.
Anna Smith
This is one of the most ludicrous critiques of a book I have ever read. The author states: "My experience of mental health issues is slight. A long time ago I read Bettelheim and Laing and Foucault. I saw “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”. Much more recently, I have looked quite carefully at the Seligman and positive psychology work – and find it fascinating and wanting. Like everyone, I have been close to people with depression. I have several man years’ experience of caring for and catering to very old people" So, to sum up, you have NO experience working with elderly patients who ACTUALLY have a diagnosis of dementia, but you HAVE watched a film-"one flew over the cuckoo's nest". Watching a Jack Nicholson film does NOT qualify you to speak on the validity or reliability of mental health interventions practiced within the field of elderly mental health. Saying that the SPECAL technique won't work for elderly people who have normal, age related, mild memory problems is a complete straw man argument. The SPECAL technique is NOT designed for elderly people who do not have dementia, as the book clearly states. You are comparing two entirely different patient populations! Thats like saying, "well, chemotherapy won't help someone without cancer and might hurt them, so whats the point of it?" I am an occupational therapist with over 10 years experience of working in acute mental health, with both working age adults and older adults with all kinds of dementia. In my experience the SPECAL technique is extremely valuable and effective. This review is extremely ill informed and poorly written, in my professional opinion.
Anthony Gallagher
Richard I have read Olivers book and found it very useful whilst helping to care for my mother who had dementia. The SPECAL method worked extremely well for me after being given the book by a good friend who's wife (also a good friend) had Pick's disease. "I read the book and the anecdotal nature allowed me to better understand what it would be like to have short term memory loss and appreciate why individuals with dementia act the way they do. He has turned what may be described as a dry medical subject into something with an actual application" I recommend this book to anybody who is caring for someone with dementia, and in fact, I think it should be part of NHS training for all nurses. I came across this article whilst looking to buy a copy for a friend, who has already benefited from the advise I have given based on what I learnt from it. I find your review ill-informed (comparing old people with those who have dementia) & it strikes me you are jealous of it's success on a personal level. It is not a novel that needs criticism, but a well written manual for us mear mortals to help our family and friends. For anyone reading this, who actually needs some help and advice, go and buy the book. Richard is reviewing how it is written, as would a film critic rather than considering how it will benefit us in the reasl world. It's worth it's weight in gold!
Leoncia Flynn
I'm not convinced you understand Alzheimer's enough to make a sound critique of this book or what the nurses are trying to do.
christopher dance
There is no such thing as a 'touch' of Altzheimers..
RDN’s reply
....nor, come to that, is there a disease called "Altzheimer's". But my correction is a cheap shot and I am almost sorry about that. I should search my own copy to find where I refer to "a touch of Alzheimer's", but anyway I hope it refers to the understanding that Alzheimer's can have mild initial stages leading to a progression of very different rates as between different people. The Alzheimer's Society talks clearly about such matters, and I defer to them.
North , I wish you well when you have direct experience You are talking complete tosh. Complete bowling balls on stilts.
Carmen Christy
I wish I'd known about Contented Dementia years ago. My beloved step-sister has early-onset dementia, and I've been companioning her twice a week for some 2 years.I have been suffering from care-giver's stress for a long time and didn't realize it. Everyone else around me suffered from my stress! James's approach gives me something reasonable to work with. Now I know a different approach to her which may make all the difference in the world to both her and me.
Kaye Morgan
Never have I read such blinkered tosh as this, written with such venomous arrogance. Stupid, ignorant man. Wouldn't it be ironic if he develops dementia & the Specal techniques are used on him. Just saying
John Allaway
Mr North, you are, truly, one of the world's most miserable bastards. Your days as a self-proclaimed and entirely bogus "environmentalist" are long gone, thankfully. But to stumble across your vitriol yet again, but this time aimed at a very good book about dementia, makes me angry. I honestly wish you'd just retire and spend the rest of your life keeping quiet, in the luxury your ill-gotten wealth has given you. I notice that you have a band of devoted fellow bigots for followers, judging by their comments.
Karen Hales
My husband has Alzheimer’s, officially diagnosed for 3 years We were told he probably had it for 15. We had to get a diagnosis privately: our GP thought he had depression. In our experience me and my children are more expert in the disease than my husband is. Thankfully his awareness is limited. According to the neurologist, this is a symptom. My husband is 65, I’m 53 and our children are under 20. I found this book extremely upsetting and patronising. At all times we try not to stress my husband and their father. He is not a client. This is all-consuming so to even suggest this is like a game of ping pong is deeply hurtful. Mr James’s mother-in-law may have experience in dealing with dementia patients but to advocate this method is irresponsible. Any treamemt should be evidence-based and sufficiently tested. I’ve actually had friends advising me how to care for my husband after they've read this book. Before you truly understand someone else’s situation you should walk a mile in their shoes. I don’t think Mr James or his mother-in-law could even walk 100 metres in my shoes.
stephen carrick
Firstly, I would like to offer my sincere sympathy to Karen above as I cannot imagine how difficult your situation must be but I am approaching things from the other end of the tunnel and understand that this book is aimed at people like myself so please do not be offended by my comments. Your situation graphically highlights the need not only for timely but correct diagnosis. I would like to thank all the people above that have left comments on the 'review' above of this book. My 80 year old widowed Father is in the early stages of dementia having being diagnosed with Mild Alzheimer's. His condition has dramatically worsened due to ill health over the last two months and I have been found myself thrust from a position of casual, gentle caring into an almost full time carer role. I have been desperately trying to find some guidance on skills to help manage the dementia for myself and the rest of my family with the prospect of the inevitably we are now being presented with. I started with the official Alzheimer's Organisations and have to say I found their website and advice contained therein less than helpful. I tried the NHS, the same. None of them seemed to actually put into practical terms what was happening and what you could do about it, they just describe the extremes of associated behaviours without arming you with any sort of sense of how to deal with them while they are still mild. By pure luck I met a lady last week who is a full time live in Dementia carer. After a brief conversation she recommended this book to me which I ordered accordingly. It arrived Friday and I started reading it yesterday. I am only 100 pages in but it has already changed my life and given me hope for at least a bearable future as Dad deteriorates. I started highlighting sentences in it from almost the first page and excitedly read them to my wife last night. Finally, I understood my Dad's confusion so much better. The red and green blanks makes so much sense to me. I understand now why direct questions can shut him down. I can already understand the value of 'green photos' and the anxiety of 'red ribbons' it is now all so clear. I explained it all to my wife and she could understand as well when she applied it all to my Dad and how he had changed. I now feel energised and hopeful rather that exhausted and hopeless. So, to the comments above. Thank you. I was worried I was delusional so decided to look for independent reviews on SPECAL (as the Alzheimer's Org assessment is inconclusive like nearly everything on the website) and came across the above which appeared to be written by someone with some authority on the subject and were it not for all your wonderful comments I may have given up on SPECAL (and denied both my Dad and myself the chance of a happy communicative relationship hopefully for years to come) over what is in fact a poorly researched, uninformed and spiteful review because he happens to dislike the author's previous material/style. I would suggest that if you are going to review something that may be a huge lifeline to others you at least garner some experience in the specific situation/s they are dealing with not try and shoehorn irrelevant experiences into the review to justify your spitefulness and stick to subjects that you are informed on. Thank you.
RDN’s reply
Of course I see the merit of this comment and its applicability to the majority of the (negative) comments to my review of Contented Dementia, all those years ago. The last paragraph of Mr Carrick's comment seems to be addressed to me. To Mr Carrick, I can only say that I would indeed regret it if my review had ever turned anyone away from something they would otherwise have found helpful. Still, I also feel I have apologised enough for all that over several years and have tried to flag up the numerous rebuttals of my first writing about the James book.
Harbir Singh
Just got the book & started reading . Yes , it does provide hope to carers . The practical application … starting a diary & finding the theme of recall which keeps someone happy etc. & art of conversing great . Any criticism is a view point , not denigrating this concept . The Az.Society is the one who should wake up & be a bit more positive on some good lessons to be learned .

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Publication date

19 October 2009