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Person-Centred communication and the care of people living with dementia: exploring the perspectives of medical students in the UK and Malaysia

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Tony Young, Dr Ellen Tullo, Dr Alina SchartnerORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).


The idea that person-centred communication (PCC) should be a contributor to improving care has become highly influential over recent years, particularly in the care of people living with dementia (PLWD), and particularly in the ‘west’. This international study investigated the hitherto unexplored views of medical students regarding the applicability of a PCC model – the Dementia Model of Effective Communication - to the care of PLWD. Our specific aim was to provide internationally and transculturally relevant information comparing the views of undergraduates in different year groups, and in two culturally-contrastive national locations. Students in the UK and Malaysia (N = 531), following the same undergraduate medical education curriculum, completed a Dementia Communication Questionnaire: subgroups of students then took part in focus groups (N = 21) or in individual interviews (N = 10)in each location. Findings indicated a general acceptance, across the year groups and locations, of the appropriateness and effectiveness of most aspects of a PCC approach, but also highlighted awareness of some of the challenges of applying this approach to real-life, real-time care. Complexities were identified by students regarding certain issues, including the acceptability of deception and the value and ethics of speaking to family members first. Differences emerged between participants in the two locations about these two issues, as well as on appropriate terminology to designate PLWD. Findings, while generally supportive of the applicability and relevance of a PCC model, also point up some of the possible difficulties of its application in different cultural environments. We discuss possible reasons for medical students’ uncertainties, and the implications of these findings for social psychological theory, medical education and for care practice.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Young TJ, Tullo ES, Schartner A

Editor(s): Pitts, M.

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: 15th International Conference on Language and Social Psychology (ICLASP15)

Year of Conference: 2016

Print publication date: 20/06/2016

Acceptance date: 04/04/2016

Date deposited: 07/07/2016

Publisher: International Association of Language and Social Psychology