Many Happy Returns

The organisation develops products and services that focus on the heart of good dementia care: communication. We run REAL Communication workshops which focus on Reminiscence, Empathic engagement, Active listening and Life stories to help social care and health staff and student nurses and occupational and physiotherapists to understand the needs of and connect better with people living with dementia and to communicate with them and their teams more meaningfully – for everyone’s benefit.

14 April 2017
Health, Care, Voluntary Sector, Communication, Hospitals and Hospital Trusts, Local Authorities

1. Action Plan

1. The National Dementia Declaration lists seven outcomes that the DAA are seeking to achieve for people with dementia and their carers. How would you describe your organisation’s role in delivering better outcomes for people with dementia and their carers?

All my work drives towards improving the experience of dementia care. After personal experience caring for my mother who had Alzheimer's disease for 10 years, in 2008 I created 1940s and 1950s Many Happy Returns Chatterbox cards. These help people communicate more meaningfully and enjoyably with those with dementia by triggering conversation about everyday memories. Nine thousand sets of cards can be found in people's homes, care homes, community centres, hospitals and academic environments. A set of cards about life in the 1960s is currently in early poduction.

I researched and developed REAL Communication workshops for care staff and care home managers across the care sector in the UK, thousands of carers and nursing students have been helped to understand, practice and develop their skills in good communication with people with dementia; one of the most challenging and important aspects of good dementia care. The principles of REAL Communication underpin the online interactive learning tool developed with Norfolk & Suffolk Dementia Alliance, which won a Gold Award at the 2014 LPI Learning Awards. We also developed a Many Happy Returns iPad App available to all to complement the online programme. REAL Communication interactive workshops have been delivered across South Wales for local authorities for over two years and were also adopted by City University and rolled out in 2015 as short courses.

I work as a CQC Expert by Experience in dementia communication. I periodically support projects for My Home Life, to promote and celebrate best-practice in care homes. I work as a trustee and volunteer of national older people's charity Contact the Elderly.

2. What are the challenges to delivering these outcomes from the perspective of your organisation?

The challenges are various, but crucially, one is to persuade carers that "we cannot care for people unless we care about them and we cannot care about them if we don't know who they are". REAL Communication is an acronym and model for delivering more meaningful communication. *Reminiscence *Empathic engagement *Active Listening *Life story REAL Communication experiential workshops help carers to understand these key principles and provide techniques and time to practice them more meaningfully in order to deliver better care for both carers and those cared for.

Member contacts

Member website

2. Actions

  • To spread the concept of REAL Communication and Many Happy Returns, encouraging carers to understand that effective communication sits at the very heart of good dementia care

    This continues through the existing, known communication channels, building on a growing following and client base.

    Being implemented

    2016 - Third Quarter Update

    In progress

  • We cannot care for people unless we care about them – and we cannot care about them unless we know who they are

    I will continue to spread this message to the dementia care sector by every communication channel and means possible, to reflect the slowly growing awareness of the need to understand how to communicate effectively with people living with dementia.

    Case study, Delivery

    2014 - Second Quarter Update

    New member. 

  • Many Happy Returns Chatterbox 1960s

    After research interviews for the 1960s cards with 100+ people who can remember the decade as younger people, the cards are being written and designed.


    2016 - Third Quarter Update

    26 cards written and design being scoped