David I.J. Reid (2021) Doing relationship-centred dementia care: learning from each other for better dementia support

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  • 1 University of Birmingham, , UK
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David I.J. Reid (2021)

Doing relationship-centred dementia care: learning from each other for better dementia support

Jessica Kingsley Publishers

224pp

Paperback: ISBN 9781785923067, £16.99

eBook: ISBN 9781784506131

In this book, David Reid provides an accessible introduction to critical thinking in the relationship-centred approach to dementia care. Building on previous work with relationship-centred care, Reid contributes an explicitly educational element and asks the reader to actively reflect on how knowledge about dementia is created and shared. With the intended audience outlined as dementia care practitioners, this book offers practical ways for individuals to challenge their own ideas, language and approaches to care. The key argument of the book is a call for a critical and reflective approach to dementia care that is based in interpersonal relationships and acknowledges individual and institutional contexts.

The book begins with a critique of the power structures apparent in how knowledge about dementia care is valued and purported. In the first chapter, Reid sets the critical lens of the work by dissecting the biomedical model of dementia and making this ongoing debate accessible to the everyday reader. This chapter sets the book apart from previous dementia work by its refreshing refusal to begin with a lengthy list of biomedical symptoms and its critical exploration of why biomedicine is often posed at the forefront of care-related discussions. The following three chapters outline the different perspectives involved in relationship-centred care, including persons with dementia, family members and supporters, and care practitioners themselves. Chapter 2 helpfully begins with an account of how learning from persons with dementia has shifted over the last four decades. Chapter 3 includes the compelling use of a letter from Jane Watson, a family carer of a person with dementia, to explore how care practitioners can learn from and connect with family members and supporters of persons with dementia. The letter serves as an accessible and relatable example of the knowledge, value and expertise of those in close personal relationships with persons with dementia. In Chapter 4, the private and practical experiences of care practitioners are argued to provide invaluable and necessary knowledge in improving dementia care. The following chapter goes further to exemplify the use of creative methods in uncovering these experiences of and for care practitioners. It creates a space for readers to test out a creative method for themselves, thus highlighting the value of such approaches as a reflective exercise to be implemented in practice. Interestingly, while there are several excellent points raised about learning from persons with dementia more broadly in the book, explicit and active approaches for the reader to take are not present in Chapter 2 in the same way as for the chapters on family members and care practitioners. The exploration of the three perspectives and how to learn from them in these chapters may have benefitted from similarly explicit approaches for persons with dementia.

Chapter 6 explores the unique identity of some concepts and ideas surrounding dementia care communities. The chapter provides an original contribution to conversations around dementia community practices by introducing Alison Gordon’s ‘dementia passionista’ and Natasha Wilson’s ‘dementia tribe’. These concepts find the pulse of community experiences and will likely directly appeal to many readers. The final two chapters offer an important comparison between the expertise of care practitioners and the content of existing care training, asserting that the perspectives of practitioners are not considered in training recommendations or policy. The book concludes with the concept of a ‘university of dementia’, in which the critical, reflective and educational relationship-centred care approach can take shape.

The most substantial contribution of this book is its accessibility for both its intended readership and the broader care sector. It brings important debates in dementia discourse into focus for those directly involved in care and represents an authentic conversation about the realities of discussions of care in academia and in practice. The inclusion of original work by community members throughout is also a unique contribution of this book in holistically centring its content around the groups it discusses.

Overall, this book would be of great use to its intended audience in providing a clear guide for care practitioners and those involved in dementia care to begin a critical approach to support. In broaching institutional contexts, this book is a call to action on the part of those involved in the dementia field, including persons with dementia, family members and supporters, care and management professionals, researchers, and policymakers. While the book is centred around dementia, its contributions extend far beyond to conversations across the care sector, with critical and mindful skills appealing to audiences in a variety of care settings, and the emphasis on valued perspectives directing the future of care policy.

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