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Memory and communication support in dementia: research-based strategies for caregivers

  • Erin R. Smith (a1), Megan Broughton (a1), Rosemary Baker (a1), Nancy A. Pachana (a2), Anthony J. Angwin (a1), Michael S. Humphreys (a2), Leander Mitchell (a2), Gerard J. Byrne (a3), David A. Copland (a1) (a4), Cindy Gallois (a2), Desley Hegney (a5) (a6) and Helen J. Chenery (a6)...


Background: Difficulties with memory and communication are prominent and distressing features of dementia which impact on the person with dementia and contribute to caregiver stress and burden. There is a need to provide caregivers with strategies to support and maximize memory and communication abilities in people with dementia. In this project, a team of clinicians, researchers and educators in neuropsychology, psychogeriatrics, nursing and speech pathology translated research-based knowledge from these fields into a program of practical strategies for everyday use by family and professional caregivers.

Methods: From the available research evidence, the project team identified compensatory or facilitative strategies to assist with common areas of difficulty, and structured these under the mnemonics RECAPS (for memory) and MESSAGE (for communication). This information was adapted for presentation in a DVD-based education program in accordance with known characteristics of effective caregiver education.

Results: The resultant DVD comprises (1) information on the nature and importance of memory and communication in everyday life; (2) explanations of common patterns of difficulty and preserved ability in memory and communication across the stages of dementia; (3) acted vignettes demonstrating the strategies, based on authentic samples of speech in dementia; and (4) scenarios to prompt the viewer to consider the benefits of using the strategies.

Conclusion: Using a knowledge-translation framework, information and strategies can be provided to family and professional caregivers to help them optimize residual memory and communication in people with dementia. Future development of the materials, incorporating consumer feedback, will focus on methods for enabling wider dissemination.


Corresponding author

Correspondence should be addressed to: Dr Erin Smith, Division of Speech Pathology, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, The University of Queensland, Queensland 4072, Australia. Phone: +61 7 3346 7451; Fax: +61 7 3365 1877. Email:


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