UnitingCare NSW.ACT Wesley Heights - Conversation Club

Category: Consumer Directed Care and re-ablement

UnitingCare NSW.ACT Wesley Heights, Manly NSW

Through collaboration between the Directors of Nursing and a private Speech Pathologist, the need to set up a communication group was established and the innovative practice of a ‘Conversation Club’ set up as a commitment to long term service delivery of communication services for residents.

Each group meets fortnightly for one hour. There are between six and ten members in each group. The format of the group is determined by the members and includes both impairment and social based activities. The group is facilitated by a Speech Pathologist with expertise in communication disorders in the elderly.

The Club meeting covers a range of approaches and techniques:

  • impairment based: voice and language exercises
  • social approach: encouraging inclusion and participation of all members by supporting them to use residual communication skills in whatever way they can to gain communication success
  • person centred care: understanding each member’s communication ability and life story to support their interaction in the group
  • project based learning: yearly poetry recital in front of other residents and staff, strengthening self-worth, purpose and personhood.


The format of the group is determined by the group members and a six monthly review of the format is conducted in the meeting by the members. The speech pathologist individualises exercises and facilitates conversation based on skills and needs of group members. Yearly feedback is sought from key stakeholders: members, staff and family to measure satisfaction with the service.

On a weekly basis, the speech pathologist monitors each member’s input into the club, ensuring each member has a chance to participate equally in each meeting, whatever their communication difficulties.

Vocal exercises are measured each week for length of vocal endurance and loudness. Members’ scores are individually recorded. Each member is encouraged to improve on their own score.

From quantitative surveys, 75% of members feel more connected with club members and speak more with them outside of the club than with other residents.

100% of members say they have increased confidence to speak with others.
100% say they feel supported to speak in the group.
100% feel that their communication has improved.
100% appreciated the opportunity to showcase skills in the end of year poetry recital.

7/12 members able to participate in voice strengthening exercises have shown an increase in maximum phonation time (vocal strength and endurance) from joining group to current time. This is motivating and represents improvement when generally health is in decline.

Over its four years of running, membership has remained steady, members’ confidence in communicating has increased, as have their feelings of social inclusion and connection in the aged care home. The Club has also led to increased awareness of resident communication support needs, with in-services being provided to care staff, carer support groups and student nurses. Finally, each year, the members showcase their speech skills in an end of year poetry recital in front of family and staff, adding to their sense of purpose and achievement.

For more information on the program, contact Liz Graham, Service Manager, Wesley Heights Manly 02 9977 7366 or Speech Pathologist - Ruth Hartman, email: ruthhartman7@gmail.com or phone: 0424 950 669.