Specal revolves around Penny’s insight that while people who have dementia cannot store facts, they can store new feelings. The approach is designed to cut out the confrontation that causes the individual with dementia to dwell on negative emotions, so that even though they can’t remember what has just happened, they feel content.
Sitting in the doctor’s waiting room, Penny’s mother Dorothy (who suffered with dementia) would think she was at an airport and ask if their flight had been called. Penny recalled: “If I said, ‘Not yet’, she was happy. But by challenging her my father could reduce her very easily to a dithering wreck.”
Oliver James, a clinical psychologist and Penny’s son-in-law said: “If somebody is experiencing a past in their present and that is giving them wellbeing, where is the ethical case for potentially starting off a cycle of loss of self-confidence and fear of madness? That’s what happens when you impose your version of reality on theirs.”
There are currently 700,000 people in the UK with dementia and their care costs £17 billion a year. Specal is not potentially costly and it’s also a practical, humane way of dealing with the needs of people with dementia. 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 clients.