Dementia care: using empathic curiosity to establish the common ground that is necessary for meaningful communication

 

P. McEvoy, R. Plant

Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing

Article first published online: 21 MAR 2014

DOI: 10.1111/jpm.12148

 

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jpm.12148/abstract

 

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Abstract

Over the past two decades the advocates of person-centred approaches to dementia care have consistently argued that some of the negative impacts of dementia can be ameliorated in supportive social environments and they have given lie to the common but unfounded, nihilistic belief that meaningful engagement with people with dementia is impossible. This discussion paper contributes to this welcome trend by exploring how carers can use empathic curiosity to establish the common ground that is necessary to sustain meaningful engagement with people who have mild to moderate dementia. The first section of the paper gives a brief theoretical introduction to the concept of empathic curiosity, which is informed by perceptual control theory and applied linguistics. Three case examples taken from the literature on dementia care are then used to illustrate what empathic curiosity may look like in practice and to explore the potential impact that adopting an empathic and curious approach may have.