Tips for dementia-friendly 1-2-1 conversations and interviews

Tips developed with people living with dementia, on how to conduct 1-2-1 interviews and conversations.

We identified these tips from desktop research, our survey of  30 people with dementia and carers, and review of the resulting draft list by 10 more people with dementia. They included: >

  • Ladies Healthy Memories Activity Group, Peterborough
  • a 3 Nations Dementia Working Group member in Wales
  • people with dementia in Somerset, Nottingham and London.

Find out about the person in advance. Introduce yourself.

You might exchange one page profiles or use Information About Me forms

  • 'People are all different and the people asking questions need to know who they’re talking to and how that person can work in the best possible way.'

Help people to feel at ease.

  • 'I think it’s important to meet in a place where both feel comfortable. That [might mean] meeting not in an office, [but] in a café or at somebody’s home. The important issue is that the individual has some input.'
  • 'You may also ask the individual if they would like to have a friend with them, or near by them.'

Explain that it's not a test, but about their lived experiences.

  • ‘Sometimes I worry my answer will be wrong’ 

Be patient and give the person plenty of time to respond. 

  • ‘you don’t get anywhere unless you do that’ 
  • ‘I liken it to translating a sentence in a foreign language. You know the language but just have to translate it into English before you can answer’

The person may be emotional and want to digress a bit. 

  • ‘you might have a burning desire to find something out or let something off your mind’.

Remind people visually, and verbally, of your questions.

  • ‘it’s a very good idea to have the questions written down’ 
  • ‘I go off on a bit of a tangent and then forget the question’ 

Consider carefully before rephrasing questions.

  • ‘Wait until the person with dementia asks! Never presume that if someone has dementia they won’t understand’
  • ‘It does help the person, but not the data’ 

Consider using prompts or cues.

Be aware that prompts may bias the data.

  • ‘A verbal prompt is helpful’ 
  • ‘prompts but not answers (a hint!)’

Be alert. Does the person need a break? Or to finish early?

Some people with dementia need to use the toilet urgently.

Talking with you may require concentration and become tiring.

  • ‘sometimes when it’s tiring we answer anything just so that it goes quicker'.
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