Environment & Communication Assessment Toolkit for Dementia Care

Live event held December 7, 2011

Research has shown that communication and behavior is impacted by the environment, and that modifications appear to improve communication skills and functioning in individuals with dementia. Unfortunately, clinicians and front line caregivers do not have assessment tools or educational resources to adequately address the impact that environmental factors have on communication. As a result, the identification of environmental barriers and facilitators to effective communication is rarely included in treatment plans for individuals with dementia.

  • Are there aspects of the care environment that you think may be distracting to clients or residents with dementia?
  • Would you like to know how to make the most of lighting and contrast to support functioning?
  • Are you ready for some fresh ideas to facilitate way finding?
  • Would you like some helpful hints for creating meaningful conversations with people who have dementia?

This presentation discusses a study funded by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. The purpose of the project was to develop an assessment tool to provide clinicians working in long-term care communities with the knowledge and skills to modify the long-term care environment to best facilitate communication with their clients with dementia. This assessment provides a practical means of: systematically acquiring information; organizing, analyzing, and translating that information into appropriate recommendations for interventions and treatment goals; and evaluating intervention decisions.


The presentation will:

  • identify environmental barriers to communication for people with dementia living in long term care communities.
  • implement environmental facilitators to communication for people with dementia living in long term care communities.
  • discuss administrative challenges and opportunities related to implementing environmental interventions in long term care.



Jennifer A. Brush, MA, CCC/SLP is a nationally recognized speech-language pathologist known for her work in the areas of memory and swallowing interventions for people with dementia. She has served as the Principal Investigator on applied research grants that have examined issues pertaining to HIV/AIDS dementia, hearing impairment, dining, dysphagia, and the long-term care environment.

Ms. Brush offers interactive and educational online courses and presentations that help audiences bridge the gap between current research findings and the care needs of their clients. Ms. Brush is the author of Meal Time Matters and Meal Time Matters at Home, training programs that builds nursing assistants’ and home caregivers’ skills related to dining, swallowing disorders, and safe feeding assistance. In addition, she is the co-author of A Therapy Technique for Improving Memory: Spaced Retrieval.

Ms. Brush has served as Chair of the Professional Development Committee of the American Speech-Language Hearing Association Gerontology Special Interest Division and on the Editorial Review Board of SpeechPathology.com.



Ayn WellefordE.  Ayn Welleford, PhD, received her BA in Management/Psychology from Averett College, MS in Gerontology and PhD in Developmental Psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University. She has taught extensively in the areas of Lifespan Development, and Adult Development and Aging, Geropsychology, and Aging & Human Values.

As an educator, researcher, and previously as a practitioner she has worked with a broad spectrum of individuals across the caregiving and long term care continuum.

As Associate Professor and Chair of VCU’s Department of Gerontology, she currently works to “Improve Elder Care through Education” through her Teaching, Scholarship, and Community Engagement. Outside of the classroom, Dr. Welleford provides community education and serves on several boards and committees.

She currently serves as Chair of the Governor’s Commonwealth of Virginia Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Commission. Dr. Welleford is the proud recipient of the 2008 AGHE Distinguished Teacher Award.

The free webinar was co-sponsored by the Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Gerontology and AlzPossible.



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Download slides here.