Processes of demographic change are leading to decreasing human resources in professional as well as lay care; this decrease necessitates new concepts of care, especially for the growing number of people with dementia (p.w.d.). Since the amendment to the German Care Insurance Law (2002), family carers have been entitled to regular weekly relief, provided by volunteers who have been given a thirty-hour-training. As difficulties in information processing in p.w.d. form an important part of the symptoms in dementia sufferers - with a high impact on communication as well as competent functioning in activities associated with daily life -, we wanted to establish how much awareness and sensitivity voluntary attendants show in “tuning in” to the p.w.d. and her/his individual capacity to interact. In an exploratory study the authors analyzed videotaped interactions between volunteer caregivers and dementia-sufferers which were recorded in everyday situations during the process of ongoing care. Using methods of Video Interaction Analysis and Grounded Theory, we developed categories which describe how in tune the helpers are with the timing skills — or lack of them — of p.w.d.. We think that understanding the different ways in which p. w. d. structure their time can improve their communication and interaction. The categories — “speed and adjustment of speed”, “mutuality” and “time control” — seemed crucial in understanding the subsequent course of the interactions. In a second step, these categories have recently been used by students and staff of the Lausitz University of Applied Sciences to provide training that sensitizes volunteer attendants to the topic and to learn about volunteers judgement on the importance of continuing education in this field.
Keywords: Dementia, volunteer caregivers, timing, in-tune-ness, training, video analysis