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Individual Cognitive Stimulation Therapy (iCST); SweetTree’s Dementia Specialist Department
As the Deputy Manager of SweetTree’s Specialist Dementia Service department who have provided premium specialist dementia services for over 20 years throughout London, I have seen first-hand the importance of meaningful, individually focused conversations with our clients. In order to enhance this skill, we offer a quarterly Individual Cognitive Stimulation Therapy (iCST ) training sessions for support workers at our offices in London. This incredible model is recommended for people with mild to moderate dementia and is a proactive approach in working with dementia clients, post diagnosis, by creating safe spaces for purposeful interactions with their loved ones. The UK 2018 NICE guidelines stated that iCST is used “to promote cognition, independence and wellbeing”. It is renowned as the only drug-free intervention recommended for cognitive symptoms that compares positively with acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, otherwise known as dementia drugs (NICE guidelines, 2018).
iCST follows the “use it or lose it” principle, with the aim to improve cognitive functioning while using techniques that exercise executive, language, multi-sensory and other cognitive tasks. It is, in essence, engaging the client in something that is meaningful to them in conversation. It is not a memory test, but rather using recollection to spark conversations. Underlying our training program are key principles of the iCST; including, “Developing new ideas, thoughts and association”, “ Using reminiscence as an aid to the here and now” and, “Providing triggers to support memory” (Making a difference, 2017) . We encourage using different tools to prompt ideas and memories, such as photo albums or newspapers. It also takes skill and awareness on behalf of the carer or person listening, hence the importance of training in this practice. It is a wonderful resource that can assist in quality time for family members as well, occupying those periods of loneliness and inactivity. I have personally seen the powerful effects of iCST in our clients lives which is why it sits at the heart of what we do in our Dementia Service at SweetTree.
Deputy Dementia Manager, Dementia Service Department
NICE guidelines (no date) NICE.
Roderick, C. (no date) Dementia communication – how best to interact with a person with dementia, How Best to Communicate with a Person with dementia. Available at: https://relish-life.com/blog/dementia-communication (Accessed: November 29, 2022).
Yates, L.A. et al. (2015) Making a difference 3: Individual cognitive stimulation therapy: A manual for Carers. London: Hawker Publications.