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Words from Lynn Crilly on Hope with Depression

This month is all about National Grief Awareness, and we understand that the holiday season can be tough. To spread some love and awareness, we’re giving away Lynn Crilly’s ‘Hope with Depression’, a fantastically practical book to help those suffering with depression.

We asked Lynn to provide a few words on her book:

“Christmas for some is magical while for others can fill them with dread and fear.

In this fast, technology fuelled world we are all constantly bombarded with images of big happy Christmas filled with lots of food, family get togethers, presents and everyone living their ‘perfect ‘life, which can leave you feeling inadequate and unable to cope with the extra stresses Christmas can bring.

This of course is without the individual persons own reason for not looking forward to the Christmas period. Whether it be losing a loved one, mental or physical illness in the family, loss of income, loneliness, or something else. All of which can add to feeling low, unmotivated, and worthless, which in time could lead to depression.

Having suffered with Depression myself, I found writing Hope with Depression the most challenging of all to write, I wanted to speak from both personal and professional experience in a much needed positive, practical way, with real people sharing real experiences and advice.

I was keen to show that depression like all mental illnesses does not discriminate and can affect anyone regardless of their social background, sex, ethnicity, race or age.  Hope with Depression explains the many guises of depression, how to spot them and the possible causes and drivers and gives a balanced guide to available treatments – both mainstream and alternative. It is a practical, supportive guide for anyone with depression or supporting a loved one, teacher workplace colleague or friend. It recognises that each person’s illness and recovery will be different, and having detailed knowledge and a full toolkit of treatment options is the way to empower everyone with Hope for recovery.”

Head over to our Instagram for your chance to win a free copy of this wonderful book.

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Winter Soup Recipes

The Perfect Soup Recipes to warm you up as we enter the colder months

As the days get darker and colder, we thought it’s the perfect opportunity to share some fabulous winter warming soups with you. Packed full of nutrients and brimming with vitamins and minerals, these will help keep you fit and healthy through the upcoming winter.

Drinking soup during the winter months offers a multitude of benefits that cater to both the body’s physical well-being and the mind’s sense of comfort. As the temperature drops and the chilly winds prevail, a warm bowl of soup becomes more than just a meal—it becomes a source of solace. Beyond its obvious function of providing warmth, soup serves as a nutritional powerhouse. It is a versatile concoction that can include a plethora of vegetables, meats, and grains, delivering essential vitamins, minerals, and proteins vital for overall health. In the winter, when fresh produce might be limited, soups offer a practical way to ensure a balanced diet. Moreover, soups are hydrating, an often overlooked aspect of winter health, ensuring the body remains adequately watered even when the weather might not inspire regular hydration.


“Eat Well to Age Well” by Beverley Jarvis – Hearty Vegetable Soup

This delicious soup is super-easy to make. Once cold, it stores well, covered, in the fridge for up to 3 days. If frozen it may be stored for up to 3 months; de-frost overnight in the fridge before heating to serve.


  • 1 x 750 g packet ready-prepared diced vegetable soup mix from the chilled compartment of the supermarket or chop your own root veg of choice, such as onions, parsnips, carrots and sweet potato
  • 1 tsp dried mixed herbs
  • 3 sticks celery, chopped (optional but nice)
  • 750 ml vegetable stock, hot 2 tsp vitamin-B-rich Marmite (optional, but nice as long as you are a Marmite lover)

EQUIPMENT: You will need a chopping board and knife, large saucepan with lid, measuring jug and hand-held stick blender or food processor.

NUTRITIONAL NOTE: The vegetables are a good source of fibre and contribute vitamins A, C and D plus the minerals calcium, iron, magnesium and phosphorus. Carbohydrates and fibre are in the bread.

TO SERVE: 1tsp of yoghurt per bowl; wholemeal French stick, sliced.

  1. Turn the vegetables you have prepared or the packet of prepared vegetables into a large saucepan, and add the dried herbs, and the celery.
  2. Pour over the hot stock, and add the Marmite, if using.
  3. Cover the pan and bring to the boil, removing and discarding any scum that forms with a large spoon.
  4. Simmer, covered, for 35-40 minutes, until the veg are tender, then remove from the heat.
  5. Blitz the soup using the blender or food processor, until almost smooth.
  6. Serve in warmed soup bowls, with a swirl of yoghurt, accompanied by the warmed and sliced wholemeal French stick.
  7. Ring the changes by adding 1 x 400 g can of chopped tomatoes plus 3 tbsp tomato purée with 1 tsp of runny honey to the vegetables, with the stock


“Five -a-day Plus One” by – Seafood Chowder

The word ‘soup’ is derived from the French meaning ‘broth’. This in turn is derived from the Latin for bread soaked in broth – suppa. A ‘broth’ is the liquid part of a soup and is my favourite word in the English language. Soups can be substantial meals in themselves, or they can be served as a starter or snack. They can be simple or intricate, but I’m just going to concentrate on soups that contain decent levels of B12 – so they will be animal or fish-based.

This soup recipe is from the Pembrokeshire Beach Food Company and is one of their best-sellers.

The Captain Cat’s Mor Seasoning can be bought from their website or you can use whatever spice blend you like.


  • 8 medium potatoes
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic knob of butter
  • 1 tbsp stock powder
  • 1 tsp Captain Cat’s Mor Seasoning
  • 700 ml milk
  • 200 g prawns
  • 400 g fish (mix of white fish, pink fish and smoked fish)
  • 100 ml cream Vegetables, meat and liquid – together they make soup.


  1. Peel and chop up the potatoes, boil them in a pan until tender, then drain them and set aside.
  2. Heat another pan and add the onion, garlic, butter, stock and seasoning. Cook for around 10 minutes over a gentle heat.
  3. Meanwhile pour the milk into a saucepan and gently simmer over a low to moderate heat.
  4. Add two thirds of the potatoes to the milk and then, with a hand-blender, puree the remaining third of the potatoes into a smooth paste.
  5. Add the pureed potatoes to the milk and potato mixture – this will help to thicken the soup.
  6. Now add the onion mix, prawns and fish.
  7. Simmer until the fish and prawns are well cooked.
  8. Remove from the heat and stir through the cream.

Now it is ready to serve with crusty white bread.

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Embracing Winter: A Guide to Physical and Mental Wellbeing

Embracing Winter: A Guide to Physical and Mental Wellbeing

As the days grow shorter and the temperatures drop, preparing for winter becomes essential for both our physical vitality and mental peace. The colder months can often bring a sense of lethargy and gloom, but with the right strategies, you can not only endure but thrive during this season. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you prepare, both physically and mentally, for the winter months ahead.

Physical Wellbeing:

  1. Stay Active:

Regular physical activity is a natural mood lifter. Engage in indoor exercises like yoga or try your hand at winter sports like skiing and ice skating. Even just five minutes a day can make a significant difference. Check out Vicky Fox’s ‘Time to Repair’ for quick and easy yoga routines.

  1. Eat Nutritious Foods:

A balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein provides essential nutrients and boosts your immune system. For inspiration, explore Beverley Jarvis’s ‘Eat Well to Age Well’, which offers valuable insights into healthy eating habits.

  1. Stay Hydrated:

Despite the cold weather, it’s crucial to stay hydrated. Warm beverages like herbal teas, broths, and soups not only keep you warm but also contribute to your overall hydration.

  1. Prioritize Sleep:

Adequate rest is vital for your body to repair and rejuvenate. Maintain a regular sleep schedule to ensure you wake up refreshed and ready to face the day.

  1. Get as much natural daylight and fresh air as possible

Despite the cold. As our ability to make vitamin D from sunlight reduces with shorter, chillier days we have to work harder to prevent the spread of germs and to improve our ability to fight them.

  1. Implement Groundhog Acute

Formulated by Dr Sarah Myhill in ‘The Infection Game and Ecological Medicine Second Edition’:

Mental Wellbeing:

  1. Stay Socially Connected:

Winter can make it easy to isolate yourself. Make a conscious effort to spend time with friends and family. If in-person visits are challenging, use video calls to stay connected and combat feelings of loneliness.

  1. Engage in Hobbies and Interests:

Find indoor activities or hobbies you enjoy, such as reading, painting, cooking, or playing musical instruments. Creative pursuits not only provide fulfillment but also enhance brain health. Consider exploring poetry, starting with Samantha Crilly’s ‘Hope Through Poetry’, as a source of inspiration and solace.

  1. Practise Mindfulness and Relaxation:

Meditation, yoga, and deep breathing exercises are excellent practices to reduce stress and promote a sense of calm. Regular mindfulness sessions can help you navigate the winter blues with grace and tranquillity.

  1. Set Goals and Look Forward:

Plan activities or events to look forward to, no matter how small. Whether it’s a movie night with friends or a cozy evening with a book, having something positive on the horizon can significantly boost your mood and motivation.

  1. Seek Help if Needed:

Remember, it’s okay to acknowledge your feelings and seek help if you need it. Winter can be challenging, but with the right support, you can manage your mental health effectively.

Embracing winter is about more than enduring; it’s an opportunity to nurture your body and mind. By staying active, connected, and mindful, you can transform the winter months into a time of growth, creativity, and self-discovery. Remember, your wellbeing matters, and with these strategies, you can thrive even in the coldest and darkest days of the year. Stay warm, stay positive, and embrace the beauty of the winter season.


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World Suicide Day – Spotting the signs and supporting those who may be having thoughts

One of our amazing authors, Lynn Crilly, who has published a series of books on mental health, has recently appeared in a number of press articles outlining how to spot the early signs that someone may be contemplating suicide. These articles were released ahead of World Suicide Day on September 10th – a very important day in focusing attention on the issue, reducing stigma and raising awareness among organisations, governments and the public.

Within the article Lynn provides four key pieces of advice on both spotting the signs of suicide and supporting someone who may be having suicidal thoughts:

>“Most people who attempt suicide will give some clue or warning, so it is vital to take those clues seriously, even if they are said casually. They may talk or write about death or harming themselves, or they may seek out things that could be used to take their own life, such as weapons or drugs.

> “There may be more subtle signs: hopelessness, self-loathing and self-destructive behaviour should all be taken seriously. Be alert also to those who seem to be getting their affairs in order or saying goodbye to people as if they will not be seen again. It sounds obvious, but all too often the clues are missed.”

> “If you spot any of these signs and are worried about someone you care about, it is natural to question whether you should say something. But the best way to find out is to ask them. Showing you care will not push someone towards suicide, rather it will give them an opportunity to voice their fears and feelings which could in turn help them to see that there is another way forward.

> “While talking is crucial, so is listening. Allow your friend or loved one to unload their despair and listen without judgement, remaining calm and accepting of how they feel. Reassure them that help is available and tell them how important they are to you.  Avoid arguing with them or appearing shocked.

The article concludes with a poem by her daughter to mark World Suicide Day. To read the article in full and the poem mentioned, please click here.

Lynn’s latest book ‘Hope with Depression’ is a supportive and insightful journey into the complexity and severity of depression. You can read the first chapter for free, right here on our website.. it might just help you, or someone you know.

Also featured in the below titles:

Charity News Desk

Healthcare News Desk

Employer News

Need To See It News

News From Scotland

News From The North

South East Online

South West News

Tea Talk Magazine

Wellbeing News

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Beverley Jarvis – Eat Well To Age Well

international womens day

The latest book from fabulous author Beverley Jarvis is: Eat Well To Age Well. It covers some amazing recipes with a variety of delicious ingredients, all packed with healthy nutrients. The recipes are designed to be made by anyone, no matter their culinary abilities.

Beverley has filmed some fantastic video content for us to share. Firstly 2 recipes from her book, an Asian inspired pan fried Turkey and Vegetable stir fry, secondly a Sweet Potato dish with Smoked Mackerel, Horseradish and Parsley

In her second video, Beverley shares some simple healthy food swaps that we can all make to improve our diet:

Lastly, with the amazing invention of the Air Fryer, Beverley shares a beautiful Salmon Dish, along with some fantastic home-made muffins that you can do in your Air Fryer.

Click here to buy Eat Well To Age Well, directly here on the Hammersmith Health Books Website.

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A Blog Honouring those who Support People with Schizophrenia, by Erica Crompton & Stephen Lawrie

This week we took part in Schizophrenia Awareness Day, which we have seldom been aware of ourselves, let alone acknowledged, until now. With such a day comes all kinds of social media posts and blogs like this– there’s a style, fact or opinion to fit everyone with schizophrenia! We’ve decided to celebrate the occasion with a few words to honour our colleagues who devote their lives and careers on helping people like Erica, who live day-in, day-out with a diagnosis of schizophrenia.

As Erica says: “After over two decades of living with schizophrenia, one decade of which I’ve been open about it, I’ve come to learn as much about myself as I have about psychologists and psychiatrists. Like patients, some are good and some not (it all depends on who you ask!).” Just like patients, mental health professionals come in all shapes and sizes. Unfortunately, some colleagues dramatise schizophrenia or promote anti-medication messages for the sake of bolstering their own careers. Fortunately, most don’t.

Erica has been in a psychotic crisis and the only option at the time was private therapy at £45 an hour once a week: “Only after my situation improved, and I finally received NHS input (?with medication and therapy) did I realise that I had more qualifications than my private therapist who didn’t even hold an ordinary degree in anything. His qualification was, simply, living with depression and holding up a marriage at the same time. I felt ripped off and misguided.”

It’s particularly tragic (and potentially dangerous) when laymen like this set themselves up as ‘healers’ or psychotherapists.  As from the example above, there are no qualifications required – anyone can call themselves a therapist.  It’s even sadder when the charities supposed to support people with a major mental illness and cajole vulnerable patients into volunteering their stories of extremely personal trauma and abuse, named, to generate donations and support corporate charity salaries.

As Erica say: “Personally speaking I seldom give interviews about psychosis to journalists or academics these days – it is upsetting to see my own adversity shoehorned into someone else’s agenda and bias. There have been times I’ve done this in the past that have resulted in severe anxiety and tears (yet the person relaying my story has made a tidy profit from my juicy bits of misery).”

The bottom-line is that antipsychotic medication and various forms of support and psychotherapy from trained professionals work best together, and better than either alone, in treating symptoms, keeping people well and promoting recovery. Around 5% of the population will people will experience psychosis in their lifetime. Some recover without treatment. Some deteriorate, and about 5% will slip away to suicide. Others do away with hope completely – there’s a saying ‘it’s the hope that kills you’ and Erica has adopted it as a mantra herself in times of despair. But today, on Schizophrenia Awareness Day, it is important to recognise that most people with schizophrenia will recover with treatment.

Erica feels  extremely lucky to say “I feel happy with myself and have managed to recover a decent standard of life stretching over the last decade.”

We have written our self-help book to hopefully give a little useful information and hope – to prepare the way to pave little steps towards recovery. It’s good to know there will always be mental health advocates and professionals willing to go the extra mile for people with psychosis and their carers. So, to those helping for all the right reasons, we salute you today!

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Panic Attacks and Treatments

The following extracts are from author Lynn Crilly and poet Samantha Crilly from their respective books ‘Hope with Anxiety’ and ‘Hope Through Poetry’. The two pieces each give a personal perspective on the experience of panic attacks and look at some of the core causes of the condition.

Panic attacks and panic disorder

Anyone who has experienced just one panic attack will know just how frightening and debilitating they can be, sometimes seemingly coming out of the blue, without an obvious trigger. For someone with panic disorder, where these attacks occur with some frequency, the ripple effects on the way they live their life can be considerable.

Garry shares how he feels during a panic attack:

During a panic attack I would shake so much I could barely stand up. I had to sit down or lean against a wall to steady myself. Even though I knew it would pass, it was always very frightening.

Most panic attacks last between 5 and 20 minutes, but they can go on for up to an hour. Some people experience them once or twice a month, while others can be put through their effects a few times a week.[1]

A panic attack is terrifying and those who experience one can have an impending fear of death. It can typically cause a thumping, racing heartbeat, sweating, muscle weakness and a churning stomach. Some or all of these symptoms may be experienced, although the effects vary depending on the individual. Here is a list of some of the other physical symptoms that might be experienced during a panic attack:

  • Faintness/light-headedness
  • Nausea
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Trembling
  • Hot flushes or chills
  • Shaky limbs
  • A choking feeling
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Feeling disconnected from one’s body.

Amy, who went through a period of regular panic attacks and severe anxiety, shares her experience:

I remember when I was 21, not long after my now husband’s father passed away and I went to Australia for a holiday on my own (I got really bad home-sickness, and ended up coming home from Australia after six days), I now realise that I was having symptoms of panic attacks and anxiety. At the time I had no idea, and the doctor thought I had an inner ear infection. I was off work for six weeks and I remember I couldn’t leave the house due to severe anxiety.

The psychological impact can be even harder to bear, with sufferers worrying they are dangerously ill, that they might die, that they might cause an accident and harm others, or might pass out and cause embarrassment or harm to themselves. These understandable terrors can have an impact on the way they live their day-to-day life, as people with panic disorder can start to dread or pre-empt their next attack, leading them to live in a constant state of understandable fear, which can cause more attacks to occur, leaving them locked in a seemingly unbreakable cycle.

Important note: At the same time, it’s worth noting that the symptoms of a panic attack may be caused by another underlying medical condition, such as hypoglycaemia due to insulin resistance, so it is always wise to consult a doctor, both to rule out any other cause and to get support in seeking help if it is a mental health issue.

According to the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), in order to be diagnosed with panic disorder, the sufferer must have experienced more than one unexpected episode on a regular basis.[2] Mainstream treatment for panic disorder aims to ease the symptoms and lessen the number of panic attacks experienced. Talking therapies and medication are the main treatments for panic disorder offered by the NHS; depending on the severity of the symptoms, one or a combination of both of these treatments will be recommended by your doctor.[1]

  1. NHS Panic Disorder.
  2. Ankrom S. DSM-5 Criteria for Diagnosing Panic Disorder. VeryWellMind.


Glad you came

A poem about anxiety – by Samantha Crilly

It doesn’t add up like it did with high-school mathematics

Or have a narrative to follow in morning amateur dramatics.

You can’t find the square root of the problem, when the problem doesn’t exist

Or find reasoning for something when nothing was missed.

Anxiety manifests itself in so many different ways,

Often building and building over several days,

Detecting faults in situations that may never occur,

Preconditioning an event into one big blur,

Embarrassing yourself no matter what you do

On the main stage right in front of me and you,

Rubbing your knuckles, grinding your teeth,

Looking fine on the outside yet on fire beneath.

Heart pumping fast, echoing beats…

Dripping with sweat, hair slathered in grease,

Lungs tensed and twisted, unable to breathe –

If only you knew when you could leave.

But it’s okay I whispered – leave as soon as you need;

I’m so proud of you for just coming along.

To have stayed even for a little while makes you so strong.

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Perfect Picnic Recipe from Beverley Jarvis

Author of ‘Eat Well to Age Well’ Beverley Jarvis has provided recipes from her fan-favourite cookbook that are the perfect, delicious addition to any picnic.

Minty Dressed Salad with Grapes and Melon

This makes a deliciously light starter. You could double the recipe and prepare enough for 4, but only add the dressing to half of it, packing and chilling the remainder to be used the next day. For a change, use honeydew melon rather than watermelon.

1 little gem lettuce, washed, drained and shredded
1 kiwi fruit, thinly sliced, without peeling
1 small bag pea shoots and baby leaves, from the supermarket, or 1 large handful baby spinach, washed Handful mint leaves, chopped
6 cherry tomatoes, halved
8 small broccoli florets, blanched for 2 minutes, in boiling water, then cooled in ice cold water, drained and dried on absorbent kitchen paper
2 thick slices of water melon deseeded and chopped
12 seedless red grapes, halved

For the Dijon dressing:
3 tbsp olive oil
Juice ½ lemon
1 tsp runny honey
1 tbsp freshly chopped parsley
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 tsp Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

To Serve:
2 tbsp toasted pumpkin seeds

You will need a chopping board and knife, salad bowl, teaspoon, tablespoon, 2 salad serving spoons, citrus juicer, small saucepan with lid, small screw-top jar and salad bowl.

Nutritional Note:
Fibre, vitamins B6 and C are provided by the kiwi fruit, as well as magnesium. Pea shoots provide valuable fibre plus vitamins A, C, E and K, and the mineral potassium. Vitamins A and C are in the tomatoes, as well as lycopene which is beneficial for prostate health. Melon provides vitamins A, C, B6 and B9 and magnesium.

1. Put the little gem lettuce leaves into in a salad bowl with the kiwi fruit slices, pea shoots and baby leaves, or the baby spinach and mint. Throw the tomatoes, broccoli, melon and grapes on top.

2. Make the dressing by putting all the dressing ingredients into a screw-top jar and shaking well.

3. When you are ready to serve the salad, pour the dressing over it, toss well to coat all the ingredients and serve immediately sprinkled with the crunchy pumpkin seeds

Experienced cookery teacher and writer Beverley Jarvis has put together this book of 75+ delicious recipes to inspire her super-ager peers to eat well, with all the nutrients that are increasingly needed as we get older, and to cook whole-foods from scratch quickly and easily so that meals are enjoyable but never a chore. To read the first chapter for free, click here.

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The Process Behind ‘The Gut Chronicles’

As the release of her anticipated book, ‘The Gut Chronicles’ draws near, renowned gut health expert and author Sandra Mikhail has opened up about her inspirations and the creative journey that led her to explore the sometimes uncomfortable and often taboo world of gut health. 

Sandra Mikhail - Chelsea Green Publishing

The Gut Chronicles has been a venture that I’ve wanted to bring to life for so long but the timing was never right. The book was finally conceived during the pandemic as I joined a writer’s group with fortnightly meetings behind our screens, which set the ideal scene for an accountability group that actually made the writing happen. You can think of this book as a passion project dedicated to my gastroenterologist father but also, to everyone that has suffered in silence not knowing where to turn to.

My infatuation with gut health was definitely born out of a mix of being the daughter of a gastroenterologist and experiencing the unpredictable and painful symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. Throughout my career, I’ve also made it a mission to break the taboo around poo talk and to reassure everyone that digestive problems, no matter how mild or severe, need to be addressed out loud. Growing up, our dinner table talk involved a lot of hospital calls my dad would have to answer, shouting out things like ‘rectal bleeding’, ‘anal fissures’ and, yes, lots more dinner-inappropriate terminology. The horror on our friends’ faces whenever they visited was hysterical to say the least. However, that was our norm, where bowel talk was nothing to be ashamed of.

As I began to put this book together, I didn’t want this to be “just another gut health book” on one’s shelf, given how saturated the market is. Reflecting back at my practice in hospitals and my own clinic, I decided that The Gut Chronicles should cover the seven most common gut conditions that many find themselves secretly “googling” about. It features easy-to-digest guidance on the lifestyle management of the following, through storytelling and humour: Reflux disease, Bloating, Constipation, Diarrhoea, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Food Intolerance and Haemorrhoids.

The book also offers a roadmap to a blissful gut, which covers my 4-pillar approach and addresses the relationship between gut health and mental health, given how the recent pandemic has had an impact on both. The characters in the book were all inspired by my clients, which makes it relatable to the reader and I also included snippets of my own personal gut struggles as well as my own turbulences with mental health. Most importantly, I wanted to ensure that the backbone of the information provided was based on the latest science but communicated in a way that would not lose the reader.

It was only fitting to end the book highlighting how our poo has literally opened up a portal to a world that may be central to health and wellbeing and reminding everyone that a little bloat never killed nobody, but a lot of uncomfortable bloat with dramatic changes in poo has.

Sandra Mikhail’s ‘The Gut Chronicle’ comes out on June 25th. Use code ‘TGC2023’ at checkout to receive 20% off your first order.

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There is always someone behind Dementia


The following is an extract from ‘The Dementia Whisperer’ by Agnes B. Juhasz, which looks at the importance of a ‘person-centred’ approach in dementia care and how to understand the person hidden behind the condition of dementia.

There is a personality in every single human being, an absolutely unique code and pattern built up over a lifetime, and the way to understanding the person hidden behind the condition of dementia must not be blocked by obstacles such as language differences, communication problems, short-term memory loss or other physical and mental causes. This is the fundamental aim of the person-centred
care model I have always used – to help overcome these obstacles while finding out what the person with dementia really needs and what he or she really want. That is why the person must be taken into account first, before the disease.

I cannot emphasise too strongly the importance of the person-centred approach in dementia care. Taking each affected person as an individual, carers must start to learn their life history, habits, hobbies, fears, things they are proud of and all the tiny elements that make them happy or sad. They must get to know the subjective world of dementia, the world of the forever ‘I don’t know’. Carers must try to make contact with the personality that is hidden behind the barricades and search for an indirect connection while constantly checking on the physical needs of each person in their care, ensuring their comfort and doing their best to make them feel at home and safe. It is not good enough only to hear what people with dementia say; carers must let the words reach their innermost minds, if not their souls, if they really want to understand what dementia sufferers are trying to communicate.

Efforts to make a connection with a person with this condition will be much more effective if these guiding principles are kept in mind. In this way, carers can build up a kind of ‘special manual’ that quickly provides the answers to questions about the whys of seemingly odd or
annoying behaviour patterns.

If somebody desperately wants to go ‘home’, insisting that where they are is not the place where they belong, such behaviour can be
understood as communicating the fact that they do not feel safe or comfortable at that moment for a variety of reasons, and that they want
to go somewhere where they will feel reassured.

If the individual keeps saying they must go to work, even though they have been retired for years, it can mean they yearn to be useful and
busy again, and are feeling bored, worthless and useless.

If a person with dementia is looking for a wife or husband who died years earlier, it might highlight an individual’s lack of company and
need for emotional support.

Speaking this unique ‘language’ helps carers not only to understand different situations but means that they can also be the rock on which these people can rely and trust.

During my time working with Sylvia, I have noticed that it has become an involuntary habit of mine to speak to her more slowly and with more articulation than I usually do with other people. She speaks clearly and deliberately, perhaps because of her background in languages, and at first I think I copied her, which incidentally was very good for my English. Now, I believe that my speaking slowly has the added benefit of giving her the chance to think during the conversation and the time to find and select the right words to express as clearly as possible what she really means or wants to say. I also always take care to eliminate every possible barrier or extraneous noise from our verbal connection.

When Sylvia is watching TV, she usually has the volume up high because of her hearing impairment. Although she has got hearing aids, she prefers not to wear them at home, especially when she is watching television, as they make not only the speech but also the background noise far too loud. Naturally there are moments when she wants to say something during a Poirot or Miss Marple episode, and I always automatically turn the volume down immediately to get rid of a very disturbing communication barrier.

In verbal communication I have learnt never to switch topics quickly as people suffering from dementia are unable to follow quick changes of idea. If I have asked a question and I realise that Sylvia’s response has nothing to do with the question asked, or she says something totally incoherent, I try to rephrase what I have just asked or said, and that usually solves the problem.


Reminiscence therapy is a crucial part of dementia care work. This person-centred approach concentrates on the personal life history and
the most pleasant memories and occasions of the life of a person with the condition. Recalling personal experiences and skills that the person used to have, while showing a lot of love and interest, provides very strong support to the current mental state so that the mind can function at its maximum. If a person’s mental and emotional states are well balanced, they have a positive effect on the person’s physical health too.

‘The Dementia Whisperer’ by Agnes B. Juhasz is based around real-life stories and provides insights into what she has found works and does not work, and candidly reveals her own emotions of frustration, irritation and – sometimes – amusement, and how she has learnt to cope with these.