The purpose of this resource is to invite you to use Sheila’s story as the basis to think about your thoughts and opinions on connecting with people with advanced dementia.  This may be something that you haven’t spent too much time thinking about up to now. The story, information and questions in this resource are designed to offer surprises and new insights into the types of connection that are possible.

Sheila’s story

In this video Sheila tells the story of a connection found between a gentleman with dementia, and Dippsy Elderflower. Dippsy Elderflower is Sheila’s persona when she works as one of a team of therapeutic clown practitioners (Elderflowers) who are trained to work with people living with dementia.

Noticing Questions

The following questions invite you to consider what you noticed in the story you’ve just heard, and anything that has stirred your curiosity.

If you are watching the video with a group these questions could be used as part of your group discussion.

What was there to celebrate/ what did you like in the story…

                                       … in relation to connecting with people with advanced dementia?

From hearing the story, what are you wondering about …

… in relation to connecting with people with advanced dementia?


This section describes a number of specific practices used by the Elderflowers to generate feelings of connection. What follows is a number of unearthing questions which can be used to think about your thoughts and opinions in relation to connecting with people with advanced dementia. 

The idea of unearthing is that there are more treasures to be found when we look beneath the surface. The description of practices and unearthing questions are created to help us to ‘look beneath the surface’ of the story we’ve watched. 

Some of these practices which were present in Sheila’s story include:


Introducing something that may be familiar to the person into the interaction, in a way that is accessible for that person 

Dippsy sang the Canadian national anthem rather than asking any questions about Canada, as feeling a need to respond to questions about Canada may have been confusing or overwhelming for the gentleman.

The person noticing where there is a response and growing this

Dippsy was very aware of noticing when the gentleman was showing interest or enthusiasm for what she was doing, if he wasn’t to have shown a response to her singing the Canadian anthem as an Elderflower Dippsy wouldn’t feel disappointed by this and would instead remain curious for other cues as to how to connect with him.

Mirroring the person’s body language 

Dippsy followed the gentleman’s lead by also placing her hand on her heart.

The person bringing their own emotion into the interaction

Dippsy listed off ‘juicy place names’ that she herself enjoyed saying, so that as well as listing place names she was also conveying how much she relished being part of the interaction.

Taking a simple idea and making something of it

Dippsy slowly and mindfully listed through various place names and noticed the gentleman’s responses to each name.

Unearthing QUESTIONS

What stands out for you in this summary of the some of the practices used by Elderflowers?

Is there a word/phrase/image or song that comes to mind for you in relation to the approach to connection described above?

From your reflections or discussion on the ‘Hand on Heart’ story, what would you like others to know about the possibilities for connection with people with advanced dementia?

Contact us

This project is funded by the Dementia Services Development Trust and the project members are...

What we've built on

This work builds on more than two years of collaboration between...