1. Nutty Nan

    Nutty Nan Registered User

    Nov 2, 2003
    SPECAL stands for Special Early Care for Alzheimer's.
    It is a registered charity founded by Penny Garner.
    They operate in Oxfordshire, and have a wonderful approach to caring for Alzheimer patients, and they have also published some very interesting and useful literature.
    As Chris has already reported, they now have a website: www.specal.co.uk , and their contact details are
    The Old Hospital, Sheep Street, Burford, OX18 4LS
    Tel. 01993 822129 / e-mail: info@specalburford.co.uk

    I just wish there was a SPECAL branch near us!!
  2. cotswold melody

    cotswold melody Registered User

    Nov 26, 2008
    SPECAL have changed their email address...it is now help@specal.co.uk

    They are continuing with their fantastic work and now have a book which is well worth reading...it is so helpful and insightful. Its called contented Dementia by Oliver James
  3. apemanb

    apemanb Registered User

    Aug 7, 2009
    Oliver James Contented Dementia a missed opportunity

    :mad:Specal seem to have developed a relatively common sense approach to working with the dementia sufferer on their own terms, HOWEVER anyone taking an interest would be best served by applying for one of the short courses offered by Specal and avoiding the book Contented dementia by Oliver James...which is extremely patronising in tone towards families and staff who do not approach caring from a Specal perspective.His gung-ho defence of this well-intentioned method is ill-conceived, unscientific and broadly dismissive of anyone who does not fall under the Specal spell, Indeed the very title of the book conjures up, in conjunction with his amateur psychological tone, images of The Stepford Wives as carers lead dementia sufferers into the happy land which they've been reduced to ,of their Primary Theme...and carers are encouraged to spend less time with their loved ones as they'll never miss them.:confused:
  4. JPG1

    JPG1 Account Closed

    Jul 16, 2008
    I wonder whether Oliver James' mother-in-law, the same Penny Garner who devised SPECAL, shares your opinion of his book.

    It's a fairly 'ordinary' book - but so are many books about dementia. And he's not exactly an amateur, so it would be interesting to know whether his mother-in-law feels the same about his book.

  5. jenniferpa

    jenniferpa Volunteer Moderator

    Jun 27, 2006
    The one thing I remember about James was an interview he gave when the book first came out in which he was quoted as saying that if he had to have a serious illness he would want it to be dementia if he could be treated in the manner outlined in the book. As you can imagine, such a statement went down like a lead balloon on this forum. HOWEVER, on researching this I discovered that it wasn't him who had said it, it was Penny Garner, which really Is almost worse

    From http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/e...ntia-the-past-makes-sense-of-the-present.html

    About the only thing that I agree with in that quote is that dementia is a terminal disease.
  6. Vonny

    Vonny Registered User

    Feb 3, 2009
    I've heard of SPECAL but haven't researched it properly.

    I'd be interested to know if this approach takes into account all the different types and aspects of dementia including aggression, hallucinations etc. Does anyone know if the whole gamut is embraced?


    Vonny xx
  7. sad nell

    sad nell Registered User

    Jennifer, i do not normally let what others say about dementia get to me, but has for someone saying they would choose it, has me in tears, wish they could spend 15 mins with my trev and i can assure you they would change ther minds, immeadiatley, this illness has to be the cruelist imaginable for the suffer and so painfull for the families, would like to set this deluded person straight. pam, sorry to get on my high horse, but i found the quote very upsetting
  8. jenniferpa

    jenniferpa Volunteer Moderator

    Jun 27, 2006
    I know - I'm sorry to upset you by mentioning it, but I do think it tells you something about the person (and not a good thing if she was quoted accurately) and may, only, may be reflected in the SPECAL approach.

    I suspect that most of her work has been done with people with "classic" dementia if I can call it that, not people who have any level of awareness or who have challenging and distressing presentations (not just for themselves but also for carers). I may be totally wrong about that though. I suppose one shouldn't throw out a potentially promising care approach because the person who developed it is, shall we say, not entirely in tune with her potential audience, but it's hard not to.
  9. Skye

    Skye Registered User

    Aug 29, 2006
    SW Scotland
    No, I don't think it does, Vonny.

    The assumption is that people with dementia are co-operative, charming people who have problems with their memory. All they need is for someone to give them love and attention, provide some stimulation, give then a few reminders, and they'll be fine.

    Now we all know this works for some people. But it's only a small part of the story. And to make carers believe that if theyare having problems, it's because they re not following the SPECAL system is unrealistic and just plain cruel.

    Sylvia and Dhiren are a case in point -- as are Pam and Trev. No-one could give more love and care than Sylvia and Pam -- but Dhiren and Trev need much more than that.
  10. sad nell

    sad nell Registered User

    Thanks Hazel love Pam
  11. apemanb

    apemanb Registered User

    Aug 7, 2009
    will be meeting her in a fortnight and that is one of the many questions I'll have for her.....will let you know!;)
  12. apemanb

    apemanb Registered User

    Aug 7, 2009
    sweeping claims are made for Specal seemingly to the exclusion of all else. one of its three central tenets is NEVERask questions. as these can challenge whatever particular viewpoint of the world the sufferer is locked into.its aims are contentment above all else..never to take the step into the unknown and ask HOW ARE YOU FEELING ETC...it specifically avoids dealing with delusions ,hallucinations and mentions them only in passing helpfully pointing out that participating alongside a sufferer in a scenario they are reliving based on past experience is not the same as colluding with delusions or hallucinatory experiences but has no mention as to how to deal with these.there also seems to be a broadening in scope as they seem to now want to encompass vascular demetia sufferers and lewy-bodies sufferers in theis approach. i work in a care of the elderly organic assessment unit and am more than a little concerned that we are considering adopting this untested approach with our patients in the next few weeks
  13. Grannie G

    Grannie G Volunteer Moderator

    Apr 3, 2006
    Thank you Hazel.

    Anyone who would choose dementia as their terminal condition literally does need their head examining. Who would choose to read a book by a person like that?
  14. milly123

    milly123 Registered User

    Mar 15, 2009
    i agree sylvia who ever wrote that has no idea of dementre they would change thier mind if they spent just one day with my husband beecause i would,t wish it on my worst enemy milly
  15. JPG1

    JPG1 Account Closed

    Jul 16, 2008
    #15 JPG1, Aug 8, 2009
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2010
    No, I don't know the answer to your question, Vonny.

    But I have read the book. Otherwise I wouldn't be able to comment on it safely, so perhaps I do need my head examining too! It doesn't go into the specific dementias, nor does it deal with the late stages of dementia when someone is unable to move, speak, communicate etc. That is not the main focus of the book at all.

    My feeling would be that the book was a starting point for the putting into print a picture of SPECAL. And nowhere in the book does it suggest that 'one size fits all'. Nor does it suggest that all carers have failed if they have not taken on board the SPECAL approach to dementia.

    Having watched all of Dr David S's videos, some of the book content is similar to some of Dr S's video content. Especially the question of asking questions, and being non-confrontational. Not that I'm saying Dr S is advocating SPECAL in its entirety, but he may be. Shall we ask him?

    It seems that SPECAL has gained some considerable following:

    1. http://alzheimers.org.uk/site/scripts/documents_info.php?documentID=695

    edited to add on 3 June 2010: NB. Just to clarify: I posted the above link long before the Alz Soc added :
    "The Society has serious misgivings about the SPECAL approach because it takes away choice and control from people with dementia.
    Read our full position statement on SPECAL". The original link was to the article written by someone who had gained benefit from SPECAL.

    2. "Specal has been endorsed by the Royal College of Nursing and the Alzheimer’s Society, and carers who have used it have reported a plateau of decline in their client."

    3. "She and James recently presented her ideas to the Shadow Health Minister, Lord McColl of Dulwich, at the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS), and it is likely that Specal will become part of a future Conservative government’s policy."

    From that, I would take it that Penny Garner is happy with her SIL's book, apemanb..

    4. And finally, a more recent article in the Times on 3 August 2009:


    "25 years later Penny and her son-in-law know that a scientific validation of the procedures that she initiated is a high priority."

  16. Nan2seven

    Nan2seven Registered User

    Apr 11, 2009
    Brian's SW recommended "Contented Dementia" to me at our first meeting with him after Brian's (vas. dem.) diagnosis back in February. I read it and was frankly disappointed. Would be interested to know what others thought of it. Love, Nan
  17. christine_batch

    christine_batch Registered User

    Jul 31, 2007
    Dear Nan,

    I personally think it is a inappropriate word to use in Dementia but that is just my view.

  18. Skye

    Skye Registered User

    Aug 29, 2006
    SW Scotland
    Me too, Nan.:)

    I didn't find anything new in it. All the things suggested are things that we all do anyway. We each learn the best way to cope with the person we are caring for, bearing in mind that every person is different.

    Most of the time, John was and is contented, but as I've frequently said, we were lucky in the form his dementia has taken.

    What really annoys me is the idea that those caring for people who are nor contented are somehow failing.

    Many members of this forum alone have tried everything in their power, often ruining their own health in the process, to keep their loved one 'contented'.

    In many, many cases that contentment is impossible to achieve. Not because the carer has not tried, and tried again, but because that particular form of dementia just does not reapond to that form of care.

    It is not helpful of encouraging to tell those caring for loved ones wih particularly challenging forms of dementia 'If only you'd done it my way....'

    I too would hate to end my days with this disease. Even for someone as contented as John, the indignities are dreadful.
  19. JPG1

    JPG1 Account Closed

    Jul 16, 2008
    But there may be 'newcomers' to dementia who will find a lot 'new' in it. That's the whole point - it is intended to help, not those who know it all already, but those who are, by comparison, 'new to dementia' and who may still be wanting and willing to learn.

    I really did not find anywhere in the book that suggested that those caring for people who are not contented are somehow failing. Nor does it suggest that those who are caring for someone who is contented has found the magic answer, the solution to dementia - because there isn't one. All the book and SPECAL is suggesting is that it MAY work for SOME people SOME of the time. Hence, Penny Garner's own declared need for evaluation of SPECAL.

    There is no reason to suggest that the next newcomer-to-dementia will not be helped by it. Those dealing with late-stage dementia may not, nor may be those who are 10, 15 years into the dementia of their relative. Depending on the nature of the dementia, and the way it works its way through in any one individual. And we're all different.

    It is perhaps unfair to condemn a book published last year that may be of use to some people who are coming to terms with their early-stage-of-dementia relatives, who read it only a few months into their own dementia-experience. They may well learn lots of techniques and useful information from the book.

    I would recommend it to anyone - not because there's anything 'new' in it to those who know it all already, because of their own particular dementia path that they have walked, but like Penny Garner - the next person 'new to dementia' may discover something to help them that nobody else has found before now. Not in the book, necessarily - but by their own experience. Then, they too can let the world know about it.

    Reading some of the threads on TP makes it clear that not one single person has the same experience; not one. So that's good enough for one little book which perhaps may help someone, or more than one.

    As they say, it's never too late to learn.

    I post this only for those people who read TP anonymously. Not one single person here knows it all, in spite of their own sad experiences. My experience of dementia is totally different from that of ... some others .. but very similar to that of ... some others. And there's no getting away from that.

    So get the book out of the library; go on a SPECAL course if the book interests you and you wish to follow it through; and don't be disheartened by anything that doesn't fit your day today.

    We are all different. Our dementia routes are all different.

  20. TinaT

    TinaT Registered User

    Sep 27, 2006
    #20 TinaT, Aug 8, 2009
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2009
    I haven't read the book. I did see the woman and her son in law promoting it on TV. Even from what they were both saying then, I knew that moswt of what they were saying is obvious and is already being done by a lot of us here on TP. I'm involved in training professional dementia carers and although it is old fashioned I personally feel that the Kitwood approach is far more realistic and honest. Perhaps dip[ping in and oput of books and taking what you need from them is the best

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