The Living Well with Dementia or LivDem course lasts for 10-weeks and is provided for a group of around six people who have recently been diagnosed as having a form of dementia. It is an ideal way to provide emotional and practical support for people with dementia and can often help them to adjust to the illness. The LivDem course is being delivered across the UK and Ireland predominately by health care staff working in memory clinics.
What is LivDem?
The Living Well with Dementia or LivDem course lasts for 8 weeks and is provided for a group of around six to eight people who have recently been diagnosed as having a form of dementia. It is an ideal way to provide emotional and practical support for people with dementia and can often help them to adjust to the illness. The LivDem course is being delivered across the UK and Ireland predominately by health care staff working in memory clinics.
What is the LivDem approach?
Being told you have dementia can be difficult to accept and people often react to the diagnosis in different ways. However, research has consistently shown that often people who are able to adjust to their diagnosis, tend to manage better than do those people who find it difficult to accept it (1, 2). It is important, then, to provide people with opportunities to help them to adjust to the diagnosis - and that is what LivDem sets out to so.
LivDem courses provide a supportive environment for people living with dementia to talk about their condition with other people in a similar position. LivDem is based on underpinning research evidence that points towards improvements in self-esteem for people attending the course (3). Because of this, we find that many people who come to the course are more able to talk about their illness openly (4, 5).
We believe that one of the best ways to help people to adjust to their illness, is often to help them to feel that they aren’t on their own, and to enable them to learn from others going through similar experiences... as one participant on a LivDem course commented:
“I now feel that the best thing to do is to tell friends that you have dementia and not be afraid of it”.
Person living with Dementia
Other members of of their family too notice a change:
“Most importantly the group halted a decline into ‘closing down’ life, so life is opening up. We are looking at what is possible as opposed to what has been lost”.
What does the course cover?
LivDem courses provide both practical information about living with dementia alongside a supportive environment for people to share and express their concerns about their diagnosis. The course runs over eight weeks and is only open to people living with dementia However, there are additional sessions before the course starts and after it ends, that family members and friends are invited to attend to help them to understand more about the course. Topics covered on the course include practical tips such as how to use memory aids and keep active as well as support to manage emotions including stress and worry.
Who runs LivDem?
The course is typically run by health care professionals including occupational therapists, nurses and psychology assistants in memory clinics. Facilitators often report that the skills they learnt on the course generalise into their everyday practice, for instance by helping them to talk more openly about dementia:
“Running the groups became a highlight of my week – it was a pleasure to see the group members talking about their emotions and offering support to each other and seeing them visibly relax at the notion of not ‘being the only one’”.
Course facilitator, Cornwall
If you are interested in running such a post diagnostic course in your area, then please get in touch to discuss how we can support your service in setting up a course. We provide training to course facilitators. This can be at the University of the West of England or we can discuss bringing the training to you.
Through this website, we aim to provide peer support for course facilitators across the country. Sign up to our newsletter to keep in contact.
Aalten, P., Van Valen, E., Clare, L., Kenny, G. and Verhey, F., 2005. Awareness in dementia: a review of clinical correlates. Aging & Mental Health, 9(5), 414-422.
Clare, L., Wilson, B.A., Carter, G., Roth, I. and Hodges, J.R., (2004) Awareness in early-stage Alzheimer’s disease: relationship to outcome of cognitive rehabilitation. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 26(2), 215-226.
Marshall A, Spreadbury J, Cheston R, Coleman P, Ballinger C,MulleeM, Pritchard J, RussellC and Bartlett E (2015) A Pilot Randomised Control trial to compare changes in quality of life for participants with early diagnosis dementia who attend a "Living Well with Dementia" group compared to waiting list control, Aging and Mental Health, 19 (6), 526-535, DOI: 10.1080/13607863.2014.954527
Cheston R, Gatting L, Marshall A, Spreadbury J and Coleman P (2017) Markers of Assimilation of Problematic Experiences in Dementia within the LIVDEM project, Dementia: the International Journal of Social Research and Policy, 16 (4), 443-460, doi: 10.1177/1471301215602473
Cheston R, Marshall A, Jones A, Spreadbury J and Coleman P (2018) Living Well with Dementia Groups: changes in participant and therapist verbal behaviour, Aging and Mental Health,22 (1), 61-69, doi: 10.1080/13607863.2016.1231171.