Advocacy, Care Partnering, Challenges & Solutions

Kate Swaffer and the Q-TIP


MAS I'm not a challenging behaviour
Header of Kate Swaffer’s abstract for 2015 Alzheimer’s Disease International conference

“Q-TIP,” my friend Jacqueline said to me years ago over a glass of wine.

We sat on the patio of a hillside villa in southern Italy watching a flock of sheep migrate across a field on the other side of the valley.

“That’s what Evan told me he would put on the blackboard: Q-TIP,” she elaborated and repeated.

Jacqueline is a business coach, trainer and author. Her husband Evan is an educator. Both are extraordinarily talented and wise. I don’t recall the rest of the conversation, but I do remember the Q-TIP.

“Quit Taking It Personally: Q-TIP. That’s what Evan told his students on the first day of class. It made sense to me, and I remembered it,” Jacqueline said as she took another sip of wine. It made sense to me too, and I remembered it as well.

I was reminded of Q-TIP again when I read one of Kate Swaffer’s blog posts – if you’re interested in dementia care and related issues you MUST follow her blog. She’s an Australian advocate who is getting worldwide attention as a spokesperson for people who live with dementia.

In her post “Whose Got the Challenging Behaviours?” Swaffer talks about how some researchers at the 2015 Alzheimer’s Disease International conference took exception to her belief that the way people with dementia are generally described and labeled by the research community, the medical community, many caregivers, the media and the world at large contributes to the kind of care people with dementia now receive.

Swaffer, who has a Masters of Science (Dementia Care, Distinction, 2014) and who lives with young onset dementia, writes:

“Suggesting research is wrong is not meant as offensive to the researchers. Suggesting care of people with dementia, currently not being done well as the norm, is not meant to personally offend individuals. It is, what I believe as an advocate, simply what needs to be said.”

In other words, offering a better way forward and advocating for change and improvement should not be taken as a personal attack on those who are doing things the way things have “always” been done. Rather, advocacy is an invitation to re-examine existing care models, identify what’s wrong with them and make what’s wrong right so people with dementia may enjoy their right to live the highest quality of life they can until the day they die. It’s a call to action, not an exercise in finger pointing.

That’s why the ripple of awareness that has begun to form around eldercare issues will become a tidal wave of change in the way dementia and the people who have it are perceived and engaged.

Swaffer knows why; she says:

There are too many stories of abuse in dementia care, of restraint with drugs and keys and ‘seat belts’. Poor food, boring meaningless activities, and too much of a focus on tasks, rather than person- or relationship-centred care. That is also what I see most times I enter an aged care facility.

Read the full post here.

Download the PDF of Swaffer’s conference abstract here.

4 thoughts on “Kate Swaffer and the Q-TIP”

  1. Susan,
    Thanks for the heads up on Kate Swaffer. She is an amazing person and all the more so with he being on both sides of the dementia journey.

    As far as the Q-TIP I can vouch for that! Once I stopped using Q-TIPs, I not only felt better but gained confidence and was able to “hear others” more accurately!



    1. YW Michael and yep she is amazing and such a committed advocate. Bang on with respect to the Q-TIPS – I have to keep practicing. Sometimes forget… OK…OFTEN forget LOL 🙂


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