Improved skills in alternative communication needed to enhance care recipients’ involvement

Care personnel and case workers in Swedish municipalities need more competence in alternative and complementary communication with persons who have difficulties in comprehension and self-expression. This is one of the conclusions developed in a research group convened by Lära and Nytida in cooperation with Malmö University. The successful initiative will now continue through a more in-depth research project.

According to Sweden’s Social Services Act, implementation plans must be developed for individuals when they have been approved to receive municipality-funded support and care. The plan must describe care and support activities and must explain how the individual has participated in and exercised his or her right to be heard in creating the plan. In practice, however, this is not as simple as it might seem – care recipients must be able to communicate, ask questions and provide adequate responses about the help and support they need.

The subject is the basis of a research project that Lära and Malmö University have carried out together with staff from Nytida to increase awareness of how care recipients can become more involved in the process. Hanna Egard, a teacher at Malmö University and a researcher in social work and disability and rehabilitation science, is one of the study scientists.

“I hadn’t fully understood the complexity of this situation. It’s very difficult to conduct a dialogue with a person who cannot or doesn’t want to talk; it’s also immensely challenging for personnel to interpret nonverbal responses. That’s why it’s so important for staff to acquire competence in alternative communication,” explains Hanna Egard.

Her conclusion is of course that one must always work from the wishes and needs of the care recipient. The challenge is to find the appropriate method for understanding these needs and wishes. Trine Bach Jensen, director of research and development at Lära, agrees.

“If we’re going to talk about recipient’s involvement and participation, we must talk with individuals in a way they can understand. That could be anything from images to rap music,” says Trine Bach Jensen.

Another conclusion drawn by Hanna Egard is that personnel do not always receive enough information about a care recipient’s modes of communication, for example when a care recipient moves to a new facility. She says that case workers need better understanding of the importance of alternative and complementary communication.

Many more insights were gained during the research project and these have already resulted in a workshop held at Malmö University. The cooperative effort will now continue as Lära and Malmö University discuss the design of a study program in pedagogy and working methods for creating involvement – based on the results of the current and previous research.

The objective is to ensure that care recipients have individually tailored implementation plans created with their participation and involvement, and that each plan becomes reality.

Lära and Malmö University are also discussing a project to develop implementation plans with the help of interactive communication. A knowledge base will offer materials and tools for using this method.

For more information, contact:

Lära: Trine Bach Jensen,, +46 70-166 58 46

Malmö University: Hanna Egard,, +46 40-665 74 66

Ambea is one of the leading providers of care in the Nordic countries. Within the Ambea group, we offer accommodation, support, training and staffing within health and social care. Ambea has over 450 units all over Sweden and in Norway. Ambea has around 14,000 employees. The company was founded in 1996 and its head office is located in Solna, Sweden.