Principal Investigator: Dr Jackie Kindell

Lead institution: University of Manchester

Award amount: £181,596 over 4 years

Interaction-Focussed Life Story Work in Semantic Dementia: A Mixed Methods Study

This research training fellowship was awarded to Dr Kindell in 2011 to explore everyday conversations at home with five individuals with semantic dementia, one of the rarer dementias, and their family members.

Individuals ranged from those with early semantic dementia to the advanced stages of this condition. Each case study used an innovative combination of conversation analysis of video and audio data, alongside biographical interviewing in a longitudinal design. Information derived from these strands was then used to design an individually tailored intervention, which focussed on the specific everyday conversation issues in each situation. This included aspects of life story work [1] and interaction-focussed therapy [2].

The study provides an in-depth understanding of the changes in everyday conversations for those living with semantic dementia and their family carers, as well as exploring interventions directly relevant for clinical practice. In this study both interaction-focussed therapy and life story work offered promise to support and enhance adaptation to changes in interaction for all concerned. The study showed that both family carers and the person with semantic dementia adapted to life with this condition in different ways and that support had to be tailored to take account of this.

Following the conclusion of this grant in 2015, the paper “Everyday conversation in dementia: a review of the literature to inform research and practice’ was published in International Journal of Language & Communications Disorders. We are thrilled to learn that as at the end of 2017, this paper had been downloaded 2491 times. This means the paper was one of journal’s top 20 most downloaded papers.

Jackie has continued her work in this field following her fellowship. As part of the devolution agenda, Greater Manchester has created an organisation to develop and enhance the care of people with dementia across their area – Dementia United. Her employer, Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust, asked her to represent it on the Dementia United Implementation Group. Following on from this, Jackie has also been asked to lead on the cross city “Young Onset and Rarer Dementias Task and Finish Group”. This city-wide group will, for the first time, be able to examine practice across the city in health and social care and develop partnerships to enhance practice and research.

In May 2018 Jackie was honoured to be asked by Professor Lars-Christer Hydén (Linkopping University, Sweden) to act as an examiner for the PhD of  one of his students whose work was entitled “Facing dementia as a ‘we’: Investigating couples’ challenges and communicative strategies for managing dementia”.

Further details of Jackie’s work can be found in the paper “From conversation to connection: a cross case analysis of life story work with five couples where one partner has semantic dementia” published in Ageing and Society in 2018.

[1] Life story work is an approach to working with a person and/or their family to find out about their life, recording that information in some way and then using the information with the person in their care, for example, in life story books, care plans or other resources.

[2] Interaction-focussed therapy is a method of education about conversation where video data of talking at home are presented to participants and explored to generate appropriate strategies for interaction.