Theatrical communication in dementia care

Published on October 19th 2017 – Intonation, acte de présence and timing are three core concepts in theater performances, but what do they have to do with dementia care? Petra Boersma studied the implementation of theatrical communication in contact with people with dementia and graduated on Friday, October 13 at the Free University in Amsterdam on her thesis entitled ‘ Person-centered communication with people with dementia living in nursing homes; a study into implementation success and influencing factors ‘. The research was a collaboration between the Psychiatry Department of the VU Medical Center, the Department of Communication Science at the University of Amsterdam and Inholland University of Applied Sciences.

Theatrical communication

The Veder Contact Method is a new personal communication method, specifically developed for use in 24-hour dementia care. With theatrical, poetic and musical communication, reciprocal contact is stimulated with the aim of giving people with dementia feelings of recognition, self-confidence and well-being. The method was developed by Stichting Theater Veder, founded in 2005 by nurse and theater maker Marieke Westra. In the study, six departments were trained in applying the Veder Contact Method, and compared with six departments of the same care institutions, which provided usual care. The study included 136 caregivers and 134 residents with dementia. At the end of the training, most caregivers were able to apply the theatrical aspects of the Veder Contact Method in their communication with the residents and showed more positive communicative behavior. In addition, residents with dementia experienced a higher quality of life on the aspects “positive affect” and “social relationships” when compared to residents where the method was not applied. Also, people with dementia, whose caregivers applied the new method, were more alert, more active, and there was more social contact: speech, eye contact, environmental response / activities and initiative significantly improved.

The research was supervised by Rose-Marie Dröes, Professor of Psychosocial Care for People with Dementia at the Psychiatry Department of the VU Medical Center in Amsterdam, Julia van Weert, Professor of Health Communication at the University of Amsterdam and Berno van Meijel, lector and professor of GGZ Nursing at Inholland University of Applied Science and the VU Medical Center.

Link to the thesis: