Innovative practice: Conversational use of English in bilingual adults with dementia

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Abstract

Regression to mother tongue is common in those with dementia. In two long-term care facilities, we explored the use of bilinguals’ two languages for five older adults with mild-moderate dementia who have begun to regress to Greek. We also examined the role of Montessori DementiAbility Methods: The Montessori Way-based English language activities in fostering conversational use of English. Over 10 sessions, participants’ vocabulary or grammatical structure in English did not improve. However, four of the five participants were able to maintain a conversation in English for longer periods of time. This study contributes to strategies for optimizing meaningful conversation for bilingual long-term care residents with dementia. Moreover, the data suggest a change in the policy and practice for dementia care so that there are more opportunities for residents to speak English in non-English mother-tongue facilities. Greater attention to the specific language needs of bilinguals in English-dominant settings would also be advisable.

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