You have now completed Module 4: Understanding Approach. Throughout this module, we continued to apply our knowledge of dementia – this time to the way we connect and communicate with participants. Approach is one of the most important aspects in your program – if you cannot communicate in a way that is effective for your participants, or support them in their own communication and participation, your program cannot be successful no matter how well you plan.
We began building an understanding of what ‘approach’ really means, with particular attention to the idea of a ‘person-centred approach’. Being ‘person-centred’ means that as a facilitator you put the participant first in every aspect of the program. It means focusing on each person’s individuality, interests, histories, and abilities rather than on their diagnosis. Being observant and responsive, and using your skills based on each person’s abilities will lead to each participant feeling supported, valued, and welcomed in your program.
We discussed the impact that you as a facilitator can have on your program – from your frame of mind to your ability to remain in the moment, being patient, flexible and enjoying the process. It is up to you to guide the program, to model methods and attitudes, and to show by your own actions how to work together.
We talked about the importance of being inclusive – connecting with each person in your group in a manner that is effective for them, ensuring that everyone has many opportunities to contribute and have their ideas heard. We also shared some simple techniques to help with including everyone, even in virtual settings where the more familiar social cues do not work.
Communication – getting information from one person to another is a cornerstone in approach. With the changes that a participant may be experiencing in mind, we described strategies to help participants understand, to help them express themselves, and how you can help when some has trouble.
At the AGH, many of our participants attend programs with a friend or family member, and we have seen how powerful this sharing of experiences can be. Beyond simply supporting their loved one in tasks, a friend or family member can provide a sense of safety, and a pleasurable moment together aside from the daily tasks of their relationship. Even so, there are sometimes challenges that you will need to address, as you navigate an array of feelings and actions that can occur.
Congratulations on completing another phase of your program design. Approach is an art. While there are general techniques and skills to learn, the way you apply those skills will be unique to each participant and each moment. As you master these techniques, you will be able to respond to each person you encounter in a way that supports and encourages them in a perfectly suited way. Start practicing with a few, and take time to reflect on your experiences as you go. Rely on your observation and intuition to guide you and you will begin to see that these techniques can be used in any program, and will find yourself becoming an even better facilitator in all of your work.