New way of communicating with the confused

Published: 19 September 2012 at 14:18

Anglia Ruskin’s VERA framework is the focus of World Mental Health Day talk

Anglia Ruskin University will mark World Mental Health Day on Wednesday, 10 October by outlining a new approach to communicating with confused people.

The free talk, at Guild House in Peterborough, will discuss the VERA framework, which has been developed by Anglia Ruskin’s Mental Health team to help people with Alzheimer’s, dementia, psychosis and acute confusional states.

David Hawkes, Lecturer in Mental Health at Anglia Ruskin, said:

“Through our clinical work and research in language and communication, as well as our role developing the skills of student mental health nurses, we became aware of a need to focus on confused communication, as this can be problematic for carers, friends and professionals alike.
“In situations such as dealing with dementia and Alzheimer’s we felt that a stepped approach that led to a more respectful conversation, rather than ignoring the situation or enforcing a different version of reality on someone, would be incredibly useful.
“As a neurodegenerative disease, dementia can affect the individual’s ability to communicate in a way that others can understand, and new ways of self-expression are often observed.  This breakdown in communication may lead to conflict, frustration or combative behaviours.
“Students sought advice about whether they should ‘go along with everything that the client says’ or ‘always tell the person what is really happening and be honest with him or her’.  These polarised approaches seem to encapsulate the dilemma inherent in communicating with people who demonstrate confused behaviour as a result of dementia.
“The VERA framework – Validate, Engage with the emotional content, Reassure and Activity – attempts to provide an honest and respectful means of communicating, while acknowledging how healthcare professionals’ perception of reality might be at odds with that of the individual.  The talk should be of interest to anyone who deals with these situations and conversations either as a carer or as part of their work.”

The free talk at Guild House on 10 October is open to the public and will run from 6-8pm.  For further information, please visit or phone 0845 196 5060.