The University is helping people with Parkinson’s to have more enjoyable conversations with their friends and relatives.
Dr Griffiths, a senior lecturer in speech and language therapy at Marjon recently researched strategies that can be used to resolve communication breakdowns and improve the emotional wellbeing of people with Parkinson’s.
She said: “People with Parkinson’s and their relatives often avoid social situations, leading to reduced social networks, isolation and depression. We are developing an approach to Speech and Language Therapy that teaches strategies to support conversations and improve quality of life for both patients and families.”
The first step towards developing a healthcare intervention for speech and language therapists to use with clients and relatives is a relative support group being run at the University.
She explains: “Giving families simple strategies has the power to dramatically change participation in conversation, overcoming the problem that once someone has dropped out of a conversation; it is extremely challenging for them to regain entry into it, particularly when there are more than two people involved."
Dr Griffiths gives just two of several examples: “People with Parkinson's are sometimes talked over in conversations and then lack the opportunity to repeat themselves. We suggest relatives are alert to instances of overlapping talk and give opportunities for the Parkinson's speaker to repeat his or her lost utterance.
“When people with Parkinson's are asked to repeat themselves it can often lead to complete withdrawal from conversations. So if relatives use varied methods of asking, such as saying ‘Pardon?’ ‘Sorry love?’ ‘Hmm?’, instead of sticking to one form, it softens the impact of frequently being asked to repeat themselves.”
Dr Griffith’s paper, ‘A conversation focused support group for relatives of people with Parkinson’s’ about everyday conversations for people with Parkinson’s, was presented at the Atypical Interaction conference in Denmark in July. The research has informed a National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) grant application: ‘A novel Parkinson’s intervention for improving everyday conversations’.
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