Connecting People, Connecting Support – @AHPdementia on Instagram


This summer one of the projects that I am working on as Alzheimer Scotland Occupational Therapy intern is developing the use of the @AHPdementia Instagram account. Readers of this blog will be used to Allied Health Professionals (AHPs) sharing their work, knowledge and raising awareness of their different roles within dementia care and practice. The @AHPdementia Instagram is being used in a similar way, only in a slightly different format to a blog.

Instagram is a social media website and mobile app that allows users to share images and short videos. Instagram recently reached 500 million users, 14 million of which are in the UK. Instagram is currently being used by different groups and social movements to challenge attitudes and try to reduce stigma of certain conditions. For example, there are many campaigns aimed at reducing the stigma surrounding mental health conditions but there are also many dementia and Alzheimer groups posting regularly on Instagram to share their work.

AHPdementia already has an online presence on Twitter where the hashtag #AHPdementia is used by many people from different AHPs to share their work and start conversations about the roles of AHPs. The @AHPdementia Instagram account forms another strand of this social media presence sharing work, advice and information to living well with dementia.

Photographs are being posted on the @AHPdementia Instagram account accompanied by a short occupation-focused description to emphasise the importance of occupation to living well with dementia. It’s not just about Occupational Therapy though as the Instagram account will be used by other AHP professions who can post information that highlights the role of their own professions within dementia. Each post has a range of hashtags related to dementia but also what is visible in the photo, the aim of this is to increase the potential reach of the photo and accompanying information to a wider audience.

If you want to learn more about the work of Allied Health Professionals within dementia make sure to follow @AHPdementia on Instagram. Like or comment on posts to let us know what you think.

Here are some example posts:

Discovering the past, peeling back the layers – Talking to a person with dementia and finding out about their life history can help to build a picture of them and provide insight into which activities (or occupations) are meaningful to them. People are motivated to engage in occupations that have personal significance to them. (adapted from Pool 2012) Raising awareness and sharing knowledge. Please leave a comment if you have learnt something about dementia… #dementia #DementiaFriends #alzheimer #alzheimersawareness #dementiaawareness #occupationaltherapy #occupation #livingwell #mentalhealth #wellbeing #lifestory #history #livedexperience #pavement #street #paving #grey #layers #personwithdementia #OTintern

A photo posted by Allied Health Professionals (@ahpdementia) on

Journeys – A day in the life of an Alzheimer Scotland Occupational Therapy Intern. We look forward to attending meetings with the Scottish Dementia Working Group who have a wealth of experience – we learn about how they are living well with dementia and how maintaining engagement in occupation and activities can be central to this. Though we also learn how people living with dementia in this group know that they can still do so many things but sometimes other people’s expectations or assumptions of their abilities are lower than the reality. Raising awareness and sharing knowledge. Please leave a comment if you have learnt something about dementia… #dementia #dementiaawareness #alzheimer #alzheimersawareness #stigma #occupationaltherapy #OTintern #occupation #activity #wellbeing #livingwellwithdementia #livingwell #AHPdementia #journey #train #fields #trees #bridges #bridge #glasgow #clyde #green #countryside #country #nofilter

A photo posted by Allied Health Professionals (@ahpdementia) on

Summer sun – Drinking more water in warm weather is important to stay hydrated. This can be difficult for people with dementia for many reasons (eg. communication or memory difficulties). Making sure food and drink is visible and available whenever someone is hungry or thirsty could help to maintain good nutrition – eg. using a clear jug with coloured fluid. (adapted from NES dementia skilled practice) Raising awareness as sharing knowledge. Please leave a comment if you have learnt something about dementia… #dementia #dementiaawareness #alzheimer #alzheimersawareness #occupation #occupationaltherapy #mentalhealth #physicalhealth #hydration #heatwave #britishsummer #trees #sunshine #shadows #bunting #eveningsun

A photo posted by Allied Health Professionals (@ahpdementia) on



Each post has a question inviting all the readers to leave a comment if you have learnt something new about dementia which we invite you to do too

Thank you reading my blog

Rachel Bew: IMG_20160628_102236084-ConvertImageOccupational Therapy Intern

I am a post graduate Occupational Therapy student at Queen Margaret University (QMU). I am an Occupational Therapy intern with Alzheimer Scotland, in partnership with QMU, for summer 2016 where I will be working with the Scottish Dementia Working Group to help change the face of dementia and use social media, such as instagram, to raise awareness.

Leading ‘Pocket Ideas – A moment in time’ has been a bit of a roller coaster!

Looking back over the past 18 months sometimes it has felt like a slow climb to achieve a planned goal, and then sometimes everything moves so fast without a chance to put on the brakes and catch your breath!

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Now that I have the opportunity to sit back and think, it really is a time to gather my thoughts and reflect on what I have learned on this incredible roller coaster. I say incredible because it has been! From the support gained from a wide range of staff to the experiences I have gained as project lead.

Image by Guy Hinks. Andrea Boyd. See copyright and usage clauses of the metadata. Pocket Ideas Book Launch NHSAAA

Image by Guy Hinks. Andrea Boyd.
See copyright and usage clauses of the metadata. Pocket Ideas Book Launch NHSAAA

My project lead post started in the middle of September 2014, and that particular week I also excitedly and nervously began my MSc in Later Life studies at UWS. Add to that, our Activity Team won ‘Best Acute Care Initiative’ at the Scottish Dementia Awards. As a team we had a lot to celebrate, but even with a positive stamp of approval there was still a lot of work to be done.

In the early days of the project journey a ‘Project Charter’ was developed to consider the plans for the forthcoming months, and to keep in line with expectations outlined in our endowment bid. The roller coaster had started and I had jumped on with enthusiasm, passion and determination!

At this stage the project was still a prototype and there was ongoing evaluation using PDSA principles which assisted with design and development of the project. Five pilot sites were chosen across Ayrshire to incorporate 3 acute wards and assessment wards for older people with organic illness e.g. dementia. All wards embraced the project idea. Time was spent on the wards to introduce the prototype to staff, encourage them to use it, and to support the evaluation process. Having learned from our initial pilot in Pavilion 3, a more robust evaluation tool was developed with the support of Clinical Effectiveness and Scottish Health Innovations

Useful feedback was received from the pilot sites and included;

“Easy to implement simple ideas to engage clients.”

“Word games got a lot of patients talking about their life history.”

“Great way to stimulate memory.”

“‘Pocket Ideas’ provided lots of simple, easy to remember conversation starters that are helpful when speaking to patients with dementia.” and

“Great for the patients instead of them watching T.V all day.”

During the pilot the Activity Team worked closely with the Communications Department and particularly Emma Lehane-Allan our graphic designer who persevered with the many drafts of the project as it began to take shape. She really did a marvellous job!! Every draft was viewed by our Activity Team, and the many staff that supported the project as it evolved.

As a team we wanted to ensure the project could be spread and sustained, so it was agreed that Champions would be recruited. Our team set ourselves a mission to recruit Champions wherever we went, and to date we have Champions in North, East and South Ayrshire, and across Scotland too!! Staff have really embraced the project due to its simplicity and as a result meaningful conversations are happening with our older people! Many thanks to all our Champions!!

Image by Guy Hinks. Ayrshire Achieves Awards 2015 at Ayr Hospital

Image by Guy Hinks.
Ayrshire Achieves Awards 2015 at Ayr Hospital

After so many project drafts (I think we all lost count), we reached the final pilot stage. A focussed period to look at the final product before heading to the professional printers. This was a very exciting stage, we had finally climbed that steep hill of achievement, and it was incredible to have the final draft in our hands! The feedback was extremely positive, and then it was all systems go to the printers. Our Activity Team were then fortunate enough to attend Ayrshire Achieves 2015, where we gained another award; ‘Light bulb moments-creativity and innovation’. Another fabulous achievement for the team

Image by Guy Hinks. See copyright and usage clauses of the metadata. Pocket Ideas Book Launch NHSAAA

Image by Guy Hinks.
See copyright and usage clauses of the metadata.
Pocket Ideas Book Launch NHSAAA

While the books were being printed, it was full speed ahead to the launch, so no time to put the brakes on that roller coaster! The launch took place at the Park Hotel, Kilmarnock on 4th September 2015 and was attended by 200 delegates from Ayrshire and across Scotland. The day was filled with inspirational speakers, stall holders and experiential workshops. At the end of the day Centre Stage having led one of the workshops finished the day with singing, dancing and the finale of ‘ Auld Lang Syne’. It was an amazing day and each delegate took away their own copy of Pocket Ideas and additional copies for those who signed up as Champions. We still need Champions to support and sustain the project, so if you haven’t become a Champion already, please get in touch to find out more and come along to a Champions Network Forum.

Image by Guy Hinks. Speakers with Andrea Boyd in middle.  See copyright and usage clauses of the metadata. Pocket Ideas Book Launch NHSAAA.

Image by Guy Hinks. Speakers with Andrea Boyd in middle.
See copyright and usage clauses of the metadata.
Pocket Ideas Book Launch NHSAAA.

Post launch the focus has been on the impact of Pocket Ideas. Evaluation questionnaires have revealed the following themes; person centred, communication, engagement in meaningful activities, increased confidence and getting to know patients, distraction from distressed behaviour, good size and useful resource, reduction of boredom, supports therapeutic relationships, sharing good practice, reduction of isolation and improvement in assessment.

Champions have been encouraged to consider real time questions to support the evaluation as well as sharing any case studies. Filming has been used to score interventions with and without the use of Pocket Ideas. The results have supported the theory that Pocket Ideas encourages person centred care through meaningful engagement.

Overall the impact in Ayrshire and across Scotland has been amazing. More people know about the project and would like to access it, and my request list continues to grow! The pdf is now available here and a route for organisations to purchase their own hard copies is being considered. Our next books ordered are for Ayrshire and Arran so watch this space!

So along the rollercoaster journey what have I learned? Most of all I have learned the importance of believing in yourself, as if you can do that, you can do anything! My role has been about leadership supported by my fabulous Activity Team, and so many other staff members.  It has taught me that leadership is about having a clear vision, a goal to achieve with the passion to do it, and that with this you need to nurture, support and encourage the team supporting you to achieve your goal.

So what next? I have returned to my clinical role with a continued and passionate interest in meaningful activity. I will continue to raise the awareness of Pocket Ideas and hopefully help to embed the project as part of our everyday practice!

A final thought, as most people who know me also know that I love inspirational quotes, so here it is;

“To dream anything that you want to dream. That’s the beauty of the human mind. To do anything that you want to do. That is the strength of the human will. To trust yourself to test your limits. That is the courage to succeed.” Bernard Edmonds

Many thanks to everyone who has supported Pocket Ideas

This blog was also posted on AHPScot blog on the 20th June 2016

AndreaAndrea Boyd

Occupational Therapist, NHS Ayrshire and Arran


I am currently on secondment and leading up the project ‘Pocket Ideas…for a moment in time’. I have been an Occupational Therapist for many years, but this is such an exciting opportunity to continue with the development of our person centred tool with the support of my ‘Activity Team’.

Allied Health Professionals Maximising Physical Wellbeing



IMG_2666It is vital that radiographers and other members of the radiographic workforce are able to understand and support the needs of people with dementia and their carers. Not only is this because all patients are entitled to the best possible, personalised care but, vitally, understanding and meeting the care needs of people with dementia will ensure the best outcomes from imaging and radiotherapy. (Freeman 2015). To support this I am delighted to share in this week blog “what is a radiographer” with more follow up blogs later

A Radiographer is an Allied Health Professional (AHP), who can be found in either the X-ray Department or Radiotherapy Department of your local Hospital. We work as part of a team with Nursing and Healthcare Support Workers. There are two types of Radiographer:

Diagnostic Radiographer

When visiting an X-ray department you may have an X-ray, or one of the following scans CT, MRI or Ultrasound, Nuclear Medicine, performed by a Diagnostic Radiographer. We can also provide a large range of treatments which may reduce the need for surgery. The Radiographer may also have the role of providing the formal result issued to your doctor after the scan or x-ray has taken place.

2016-08-04-PHOTO-00000655Therapeutic Radiographer

When undergoing treatment at your local Radiotherapy Centre you will encounter the Therapeutic Radiographer. It is their role to work as part of an oncology team, specialising in the planning and administration of radiotherapy treatment for patients, most of whom have cancer. Using a wide range of technical equipment the radiographer delivers accurate doses of radiation to the tumour to destroy the diseased tissue, while minimising the amount of radiation to surrounding healthy tissue.

How CAN a Radiographer help YOU?

It may be the case that at some point in your life you will have the need to visit one of the departments listed above and as such it is important to understand the role of the radiographer and how they can be of help to you.

Whether radiographers are playing a part in finding out what is wrong with individuals or providing treatment, it is essential that we have your co-operation. Our role usually involves positioning patients in a particular way using equipment that can seem intimidating. Communication is KEY to ensuring that this is performed with ease.

Often there can be barriers to communication with conditions such as Dementia. In this case it is helpful to make the radiographers aware of any challenges that you or your relative may have that would make it difficult for the tests or treatment to be completed to the highest standard.

Radiographers would welcome the expertise of any relatives or carers who are accompanying patients to ensure you have a timely and positive experience within our departments. If there are any adjustments that can be made prior to arrival for an appointment then please call ahead and speak to staff who will try their best to accommodate any specific requests. Your visit to the x-ray or radiotherapy department may lead to future hospital appointments and radiographers would welcome the opportunity to make your hospital experience as comfortable as possible.

Caring for People with Dementia

To support ALL the radiography workforce our professional body developed a clinical practice guideline for the radiography workforce (imaging and radiotherapy). This is a comprehensive set of evidence-based recommendations for the whole radiographic workforce caring for people with dementia and their carers when undergoing imaging and/or radiotherapy. The guideline has recommendations for good practice for individual members of the radiographic workforce, service managers, academic institutions and the Society and College of Radiographers (SCoR).

IMG_2667The document contains recommendations under 7 themes in the following areas:

  1. The practice environment –acknowledging the need for special provision;
  2. Building relationships with patients and carers to optimise the patient experience;
  3. Strategies for optimising communication with people with dementia and their carers;
  4. Understanding patients’ behaviour and adopting positive ways to reduce distressed reactions;
  5. Carer involvement;
  6. Staff skills and attitudes;
  7. Training needs.

You can see a copy of the full guidelines here and I will blog again on this and the “day in the life of a radiographer” later this year.

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Thank you for reading my blog and please leave any questions or comments.

Also please log on to the Society of Radiographers website for more information

2016-08-04-PHOTO-00000655Caroline Handley, Lead Radiographer / Secretary of Scottish Council of Radiographers

Lead Radiographer within the Imaging Department of the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, Glasgow. I am a Diagnostic Radiographer who on a daily basis ensures the smooth running of the Imaging Department.



“Our Top Tips” to Living Well with Dementia – Scottish Dementia Working Group @SDWG

During the summer of 2015 the Scottish Dementia Working Group (SDWG) and Lynsey Robertson-Flannigan the Alzheimer Scotland Occupational Therapy intern formed a ‘Top Tips’ subgroup. The aim of this group was to co-produce a peer to peer resource of tips and strategies for people living with dementia.

The SDWG members have over the years collected strategies and tips which they have found useful in helping them to live well and independently with dementia. Their desire was to share this knowledge, enabling others to maximise their quality of life by being ‘all they can be’ (Dementia Skilled Improving Practice 2016).

Image of the group hard at work sharing their ideas.

Image of the group hard at work sharing their ideas.


The outcome of the group was to develop a resource of all their ideas. After a few brain storming sessions, a booklet of “Top Tips” was developed and the tips were themed into these areas:

At Home: Kitchen – Moving about your home safely

Out and About:  Using buses, trains and taxis – Car parks – Keys –  Staying safe and asking for help

Medication: Taking medication – Being away from home

In this week’s blog we are delighted to share with you a preview of the “At Home” section.

Kitchen our top tips to living independently

  • A note on the cooker could prevent you from becoming distracted while cooking, for example: “Do not answer the door or phone when you are cooking.”
  • Blackboard stickers or signs on kitchen cabinets can be a reminder of what is inside.
  • A timer can remind you that food needs to be checked or that it is ready to eat. A portable timer can be carried to different rooms of the house.
  • Using blackboard stickers or signs on kitchen cabinets can be a reminder of what is inside.

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  • Timers can be used to remind you to turn off appliances, such as the oven or iron. This can prevent fire hazards.
  • Having transparent kitchen appliances could make it easy to see when the kettle is boiling or if the toast is ready.

Reminders for information, dates and appointments can be used around the home in a variety of ways:

  • Laminated reminders
  • Labels
  • Whiteboards
  • Notice boards
  • Magnetic boards
  • Recorded messages
  • Labels on drawers can be a reminder of what is inside.
  • Post-it notes
  • Having a checklist at the front door. For example:

Have you turned the gas off?

Have you turned off electrical appliances?

Do you have your car keys / purse / wallet?

Is the back door locked?

Are the windows shut?

Remember to lock front door?

  • Calendars with large boxes to record appointments or diaries which have clearly separated days.

Printed reminders should be interesting to look at so that they catch your attention. Using coloured card or photographs can help.

Photo from dementia circles ideas

Photo from dementia circles ideas

Moving Around Your Home Safely

  • Some local authorities can provide useful services to promote safety in the home. These can include a wide range of community alarms or alarms which make a sound when you leave your house.
  • Trip hazards can be reduced by painting the last step in a contrasting colour. This can make it clearer where the stairs end.

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Being involved in the development of Our Top Tips to Living Well with Dementia’ has been a real pleasure. We have almost completed the booklet and hope to have it available in the next three to four months.   We hope that the tips included within this leaflet will be of use to people with dementia now and for many years to come.

The Scottish Dementia Working Group are aware that these are the strategies that they have found to be of benefit although they may not work for everyone.

It would be great to hear from you on other effective “top tips” you use already? or have you seen any of these ‘Top Tips’ used and were they of benefit? and would you include any further sections?

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We need to say a thank you to all the members of the SDWG for their ideas and suggestions as well as to Lynsey Robertson-Flannigan, Susan Burn, Fiona Gordon and Rachael McMurchy for their support and advice.

Marianne Wallace: Marianne-Profile-Picture-ConvertImageOccupational Therapy Intern

Marianne graduated from Aberdeen University with a Psychology degree and spent 6 years working with the National Autistic Society. After initially working as a support worker, Marianne was involved in creating and delivering a social communication program called “Transitions”. Marianne has just finished her first year of a MSc Occupational Therapy (Pre Reg) programme at Queen Margaret University and is working as an Occupational Therapy Intern with Alzheimer Scotland. As an Occupational Therapy student her desire is to contribute and be involved with other people’s journeys.

Allied Health Professionals Enhancing Daily Living

With occupational therapy you CAN

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How often have we been asked, “What is occupational therapy? Can I refer to you directly? Do you support carers?” We know that occupational therapy improves health and wellbeing through participation in occupation, that we can help people to “live life their way” and we wanted to share what we know about occupational therapy with the public. This blog tells you what we did to share how occupational therapy CAN help you. To get started we set up a working group of occupational therapists with an interest in dementia in Scotland.

Occupational Therapy (Scotland) Dementia Working Group

In partnership with the College of Occupational Therapists, Alzheimer Scotland and occupational therapists from Glasgow, Fife, Aberdeen, Lothian, Forth Valley and Dumfries, to name but a few places we formed the Occupational Therapy (Scotland) Dementia Working Group. We wanted to set ourselves a challenge to bring together interested occupational therapists working within services that specialise in dementia care to give a collective voice to our work and how we can help people who live with dementia.

The first task of the group was to share what and who we are. So what did we do? We designed a postcard.

Our postcard

As a group we have a strategic plan of how to give a voice to our work for the benefit of people living with dementia. We appreciate people need to know what we do before you can ask for our help. The first thing we did for #DAW2016 was design a postcard telling Scotland what occupational therapy CAN do for you and this is what we said:

Occupational Therapy CAN:

  • Help you to use your strengths and abilities to stay active in your everyday life
  • Help you make small changes to make life easier at home, in the community and at your work
  • Advise family and friends on how to support you to live well with your dementia
  • Advise your family and friends on how to look after their own health

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Contacting an Occupational Therapist

If you think from reading this blog you need to contact an occupational therapist we would invite you to ask your GP, consultant or social work department. You can also link to an occupational therapist through your local Alzheimer Scotland service or community mental health team. The College of Occupational Therapists has some helpful resources on dementia and can find them on their website or  E-mail:

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What next

As a group of occupational therapists we meet again in the Autumn and this time our focus will be on developing creative ways to share our knowledge on activities meaningful to you, the importance of adapting everyday environments and our role in supporting families as equal partners. We are not sure yet what this will look like although the postcards have been a big hit!

On reflection, we would welcome your comments on:

What else would you like to know about occupational therapy?

We’re interested in hearing back any thoughts or experiences people have had accessing or receiving occupational therapy services and thought this interactive Blog was an ideal platform.

We’re always willing to consider and find new ways of working to help people live well with dementia.

Thank you

From Wendy Chambers and Carrie Milligan on behalf of the occupational therapy (Scotland) dementia working group who include Julie Brown, Sam Flower, Alison McKean, Michelle Dunne, Ruth Gardner, Jacqui Chung, Lynn Dorman and Debbie Scott.

Please get in touch if you would like more information about our work and new group

pic-1-ConvertImageCarrie Milligan, Specialist Occupational Therapist


I work in older peoples’ mental health the north east of Glasgow covering two 24 bed dementia assessment ward and a functional assessment wards. Main function of my role is the assessment of patients to aid determination of their future care needs either home or a care home setting. Rehabilitation work with patients and family is undertaken to aid discharge planning.

Allied Health Professional Maximising Psychological Wellbeing: Changing communication

Communication does gradually change when a person is living with dementia, but as Stephen Miller puts it , “there is nothing they can do about it”. We are the ones who have to change. His book Communicating across Dementia1 is well worth a read.

We already have the skills we need to adapt to a different way of communicating. We all use facial expression and body language, tone of voice, and behaviour in every face to face interaction, and in fact we are quite dependent on them. Where words are used on their own, in written messages, texts, emails etc, it is easy to misinterpret the tone, so we’ve developed “emoticons” which add a non-verbal overlay.

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We each have our own repertoire of behavioural emoticons.

A baby is completely reliant on non-verbal communication and we can understand and meet their needs. A person who is losing the power of language has more sophisticated social skills and knowledge of the world, and we must respond to their behaviours to understand their more complex messages.

Just as we learn what the different cries of our own baby mean, we also have to learn the significance of a person’s different behaviours. The better we know the person, the joys and sorrows of their life, their pre-occupations, their everyday likes and dislikes, their interests and habits, their spiritual needs, the better we can communicate with them.

Here’s an example:

A man living at home with his wife used to get up from the table after breakfast every day and start emptying the cupboard under the stairs. It made a terrible mess and she was desperate to stop this disruptive habit. He couldn’t explain what he was doing or why, and she didn’t understand. It was another family member who made the link between the behaviour and what it was telling them, reminding her that in their first house, when the children were young, all the shoes lived in the cupboard under the stairs and he used to clean and polish them after breakfast on a Sunday. Now he was reliving those days and trying to be useful. Once his wife understood, she found some shoes to keep there and he was happy getting them out and giving them a brush every day and then putting them away.

It is not always possible to understand what a person is trying to communicate, but they may resort to more extreme behaviour if we ignore the clues. In these circumstances, it usually helps to acknowledge the emotions even if the cause is still a puzzle. The important thing is to recognise that the behaviour is communication.

Communication is two way. It is not just about watching and listening. We have to adapt our own messages so that our meaning is not just conveyed in words. It is still important to use speech – some words will be understood, and the person will recognise they are being included in a conversation. But this isn’t enough.

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All the senses can be used to communicate – smell, taste, touch, sight, hearing, being aware of movement, temperature. Words are gone in an instant, but using other modalities can give the person much more time to process the message. Simple things like the cornflakes packet to show it is breakfast time, a warmed blanket to communicate comfort and love, need I say it, smiling, can make a huge difference.

Speech and Language Therapists work with families and carers to help find the best ways to communicate. It is different for everybody, but in Stephen Miller’s words, communication

“goes to the heart of what it is to be human”.

It is vital to our psychological well-being.

1..Stephen Miller Communicating across dementia Robinson 2015

exploring occupational therapist’s professional knowledge of alcohol misuse in physical health care settings.


Rebecca Kellett

Speech and Language Therapy Clinical Lead for Dementia in NHS Lothian


I work in the community with adults with acquired neurological problems, including dementia, and I’m a member of the Alzheimer Scotland AHP dementia expert group. I’m starting a new job with a specialist speech and language therapy team in Lothian working with people with dementia.

Informed, Skilled, Inspired

Looking towards another year of AHP Placements at Alzheimer Scotland

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby

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There are seasonal years based on nature’s patterns and calendar years determined by the movement of the planets. Financial years provide a structure for accountancy and there are academic years to provide a means of measuring quantity of study for learners of all ages. For those of us who work in education, the rhythm of the academic calendar is at the forefront. And although there may be a common fantasy of long hazy summer holidays, in my experience, the summer months are potentially the busiest.

Most student placements occur just once in the annual academic calendar and with each annual cycle, arrives a fresh opportunity to review and refine processes. Even before the current academic year comes to an end, the work to plan for the coming year is well under way. Before I head of on annual leave (and to contend with the midges), I would like to take this opportunity to catch my breath and let you know about our plans for the coming academic year and the work with the allied health professional students in Alzheimer Scotland. As we go along, we continue to ask for feedback from all involved in the programme and this year’s plans are influenced by last year’s feedback.

An Informed AHP workforce

I have already blogged about an energised response from Speech and Language Therapy students studying at Strathclyde University, who were able to visit Alzheimer Scotland services in the Glasgow area and am looking forward to repeating this model this coming year.

Having tried and tested this model for these students, at an early stage in their training and having seen the potential to transform the students perceptions about dementia and the role of Alzheimer Scotland, in the new academic year, we will pilot a similar model, linking Dietetics students from Queen Margaret University within the Alzheimer Scotland Dementia Cafes in the Lothian area.

These visits by speech and language therapy and dietitians will be embedded in wider learning at the Universities and will be offered in conjunction with Dementia Friends training and participation in the Informed level of the Promoting Excellence framework

It is our hope that these initial visits to Alzheimer Scotland services will allow some students to discover an interest or even a passion for this work.

“Human resources are like natural resources; they’re often buried deep. You have to go looking for them; they’re not just lying around on the surface. You have to create the circumstances where they show themselves.” (Ken Robinson 2010)

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A skilled AHP workforce

We will continue to provide a number of more substantial AHP placement experiences in our work to prepare the future generation of AHP for their dementia work.

The art psychotherapy and music therapy placements will continue to take place over the full academic year and we are looking at ways to ensure that services that have benefited from the students’ input can continue to access the arts therapies.

Our Occupational Therapy placements are also continuing and will be able to build on the varied and innovative work from previous years, providing a skilled approach to maintaining meaningful engagement in the things that are important to the people that come to Alzheimer Scotland services.

New to the programme will be physiotherapy. We potentially have three different higher education institutions involved and will be working with a “split placement” model where students spend 2 of their three placement days in an Alzheimer Scotland service whilst based in an NHS setting. Maintaining our physical health and fitness is so important and I am looking forward to hearing feedback from this promising new venture.

This summer will allow time to stand back and view the landscape of the AHP student placement programme as it has looked to date and also to visualise new landscapes based on the best of what we have to offer. There will be much to do to make it all happen but I am looking forward to 2016-17 already! See you then.

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Adrienne McDermid-Thomas

Alzheimer Scotland AHP Practice Education Facilitator


My role is to build on a programme of work of developing AHP student practice placements, an AHP internship programme and AHP volunteer opportunities in Alzheimer Scotland supporting the aspiration that all allied health professional students are skilled in dementia care on graduation.  I have had some really positive experiences of joint AHP working in the past and am very much looking forward to this further opportunity to work together with AHP colleagues and Alzheimer Scotland to develop ways of working which are sustainable and best suited to meeting the needs of people living with dementia and their carers and families.