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Essential Skills and Knowledge


The Oxford Dementia Programme is the successor to DESK which was funded by Oxfordshire between 2010 and 2015 and delivered by Catharine Arakelian.

These are selected written responses from the Session Evaluations DESK 2014 -2015 to the question

What do you think will be most useful for you?

WITNEY September 2014

Meeting other people in similar circumstances and talking. LD

Learning to manage my responses, not to ask questions, not to contradict or think I know best.  LD

Rethinking how I manage situations.  SG

The need to adapt to ’see’ what the other person is experiencing. LA

Meeting people, talking and socialising.  Lots of information to digest.  Steep learning curve.  Feel more prepared for an uncertain future.  LD

Plan ahead, crisis management difficult to deal with.  JD

HENLEY Sept 2014

Learning more about Alzheimer’s and how it can affect us as carers. JB

Constructive approach to a relatively new challenge. (Anon)

Realising the difference between BRAIN & MIND. This is very practical and will be used positively.          MM

Realising every person’s level of dementia varies so much. (Anon)

Getting thoughts in order. JA

Being able to discuss problems with others and learn better ways of coping for benefit of carer and person cared for.  JB


I was able to put myself into a sufferer’s brain and to understand that as the outside observer it does not mean that my opinion is better or right compared to the sufferer.  That they are in their own world which is acceptable to them.  JM

Understanding the importance of ‘occupation’. (Anon)

To try to be not so controlling and to make tasks and problems smaller. SW

To continue to allow Mum to try things until she can’t before taking things over. (Anon)


General (sic) understand and that I am at this moment coping in a sympathetic and cheerful manner. VB

How to manage abusive behaviour. (Anon)

More awareness achieved. (Anon)

WITNEY Jan 2015

Having the course facilitated with Catharine who has so much knowledge and experience. LO

Awareness that there really are more options.  GS

Try to provide stimulation although this is not usually welcome! (Anon)

Reinforcement that life can still be good with dementia.  GS

Smells and music can help.  SP

All of it. (Anon)

Expertise.  Meeting other carers. HJ

DIDCOT Feb 2015

Learning how complex ‘dementia’ is in its varying forms – no label. Learning to avoid asking questions and to make a statement of ‘What I am going to do’ to enable person to decide to do same if they wish. (Anon)


I had confidence in the speaker in that she appeared to know what she was talking about (Anon)

Much better understanding of the problem (Anon)

Reinforcing the fact that dementia is a structural, organic condition (Anon)

My confidence will improve (Anon)

Understanding the confused memory of the sufferer. A most interesting and mind blowing insight. LM

Knowing that I am on the right track in handling the early stage of dementia in my mum. MO

Gaining new perspectives (Anon)

The food for thought that it provided (Anon)

Lots of the metaphors that came up and the ideas and examples and experiences and observations, which came from all the members of the group (Anon)

Revising my attitude at all times (Anon)

Encouragement makes you feel safe (it is not patronising) and Let Mother to continue to be a parent into her dementia journey

Controlling versus enabling   M

The strategies that I’ve learned to cope with various situations (Anon)

Knowing that it’s the same person but their brain is working differently.  No one way is the correct way.  It’s knowing I can contact a person I have confidence in if I need to know something  (Anon)

THAME Feb/March  2015

How vascular dementia destroys the brain. (Anon)

Gaining knowledge; it’s all completely new to me. (Anon)

Listen to him. (Anon)

Remembering to think about senses – working out what certain words mean if someone is searching for something. CN

An understanding of my husband’s dementia, from his point of view.  AS

Make a list of things that make him happy.  Store in ‘ bottle in fridge’.  Thank you – a refreshing way of looking at life.  ML

A better understanding of how my husband … ticks.  I hope it will result in me changing to becoming much more a partner and less ‘she who must be obeyed’ (…calls me that) (Anon)

Understanding relationships and appreciating I can still lead a life of my own. (Anon)

Not contradicting when …thinks he is letting me down.  MG

CARTERTON March 2015

Trying not to be so controlling of situations!! So long as Dad is safe in the care home is all that matters and make him as comfortable as possible! JW

I can hold my ‘flower’ close to me at all times.  LO

Knowing I’m not alone and there is support out there. TB

Being aware of using the right language – ‘we’ rather than ‘you’ TB

Curb the controlling behaviour.  (Anon) 

 BANBURY May 2015

Understanding the basic ways of recognising/dealing with symptoms – not categorising ‘odd’ behaviour as necessarily dementia.  RM

Meeting other carers TB

Re-inforcement of the ‘no blame’ message (Anon)

The idea of ‘making offers’ rather than ‘presenting choices’ (Anon)

The bag {handbag} as a repository of identity items (Anon)

The comparison of ‘enabling’ versus ‘controlling’ care – this is absolutely fundamental to me. (Anon)

All of it (Anon)

OXFORD May 2015

To be able to give improved care for my mother. also able to pass the information to other members of the family  RR

Developed my awareness of my own need to control (my husband), and increase his dependency.       JR

Ways to talk about dementia to those that don’t understand….(Anon)

The metaphor journey, to aid my understanding of a person’s experience who has dementia.(Anon)

Making time and space to confront dementia at a rational level (objective rather that subjective}.  LH

I’m not alone.  Lots of people out there with a similar life style.  AB

Understanding what happens to my husband and how he cannot help the things he does and says. (Anon)

I found it helpful to hear from others. SM

Meeting people in the same position. (Anon)

Understanding better why my Dad does certain things.  BM

The daisy – thinking about what Mum needs to stop her being agitated.  V

…the idea that …has a problem stopping doing things.   JR

Putting in practice the lovely practical advice given.  LH

Considering how the environment can be adapted to better suit the person. (Anon)

How my thinking will change after this course.  RR

To change the way I interact with my Dad. Move from transactional to interactive. BM

Talk with members of my family about equalising the power/ control vs enabling (Anon)

Understanding how to manage situations by being led by what my mother wants and not trying to control what should happen V

WITNEY June 2015

Understanding more of the frustration and confusion …. Is feeling. (Anon)

Being in common situation with others. LP

To always assume that behaviour is part of the illness and is not being ‘done’.  A

The imagining what it is like to be a person approaching diagnosis activity. (Anon)

Trying to imagine the idea of ….’s demands to help as a gift. (Anon)

Optimistic approach to what may be successful.  LP

Importance of being relaxed and person-centred with our ‘person’.  Enjoy and benefit from the time Mum is cared for.  LP

 BANBURY Oct 2015

Learning about couples course MO

Everything – understanding the brain JM

Listening to tips and ideas on coping with the practical problems JM

The aspect of keeping my Dad as self-empowered as possible – for as long as possible! (Anon)

Learning how better to deal with my husband/ the science behind the brain / the mechanisms of coping BB


Understanding my relationship, how to communicate effectively without controlling (Anon)

WITNEY Oct 2015

I will explore music therapy and the Jacqueline du Pre Centre  LT

BANBURY Oct 2015

Why there aren’t more courses for other people?  JM

How will I/we really know when the time has come to encourage my Mum to consider placing Dad in a Care Home?

Is there more I can learn and where? BB


How I take on board the positives and use them to improve the relationship and life for the person in our lives.