Reflections from occupational therapy students on placement at Alzheimer Scotland
Hello, I’m Gemma and I’m an Occupational Therapy student currently in my 4th and final year of an undergraduate degree at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh… eek! I always knew that I wanted to pursue a career in which I would encounter people from all walks of life! A careers advisor at my school suggested Occupational Therapy; a vocation that I had little knowledge of at the time. My aunty is a physiotherapist working in neurology rehabilitation and she organised the opportunity for me to spend a day with the Occupational Therapists at her service. I just knew straight away that Occupational Therapy was the path for me! And like the American Occupational Therapy Association president once said: “Occupational Therapy is more than a job, for many it is a calling…we felt drawn to it!” This quote resonated with me immensely.
Prior to undertaking my degree, I completed an HNC in Social Services and I currently work part-time as a support practitioner, enabling individuals to live independently within their communities. This role ties in well with my studies and its great being able to gain practical experience whilst I am still at university. In my free time I enjoy keeping fit through long walks and an exercise regime called HIIT. I recently started this at home over lockdown and it has increased my fitness and energy levels! The recent lockdown has also created a lot of uncertainty and feelings of worries and stress for many, so I also find comfort in meditation and hot baths to help me relax, unwind and focus on the present!
For my final placement, I am working with Alzheimer Scotland for a period of 8 weeks in the hope to enhance and broaden my understanding of dementia, whilst learning about the invaluable role Occupational Therapists have to offer. Starting with the profession in a broader sense, for me occupation is any activity we engage in that is important to us. The things that are meaningful to me might not be to someone else, however I think this is the beauty of human beings; we are all unique with individual interests, goals, aspirations and qualities. I think it would be boring if we were all the same! Occupational Therapists are lucky enough to get to know the person beyond their diagnosis, by working with them to identify those things that offer a true sense of purpose, identity and contentment to their lives. However ultimately, I think our role helps the individual to develop resilience and recognise that hope still prevails, even in times of difficulty.
I was excited when I was given my placement with Alzheimer Scotland, as I think dementia has touched most lives in some ways and will continue to do so. Moreover, being the future workforce, I think it’s so important that as students, we are equipped with the skills and expertise to enable people living with dementia to lead fulfilling lives, despite their diagnosis. Already, I have captured the array of skills occupational therapists have to offer, including advice and guidance on:
- Maintaining engagement in the hobbies/interests you enjoy
- Promoting health & wellbeing for families and supporters
- Making small changes to your environment to make life easier at home, at work and in the community.
Due to ongoing restrictions still in place, my placement will be virtual – meaning a fully online learning experience! Fellow occupational therapy student Abi and I will have to adapt and be flexible in the way we work and communicate with both colleagues, other professionals and those with dementia and their supporters. I am particularly interested to learn about the universal, targeted and specialist approach and where Alzheimer Scotland as a third sector organisation fits into this. Furthermore, I am also keen to develop my understanding of post-diagnostic offerings and the importance of early intervention and prevention strategies.
I look forward to sharing my progress via social media platforms, where I will be promoting the role of Occupational Therapy within dementia care and actively reflecting on my placement journey. Please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have! #withOTYouCan #AHPConnectingPeople
My name is Abigail Allan, and I am a 4th year student currently on BSc (Hons) Occupational Therapy degree program at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh. As part of my course, it is required that I complete four practice placements. This year I am very excited to say that I will be spending my fourth and final placement working with the amazing team at Alzheimer Scotland.
From a young age, I have always wanted to go into to a career which would allow me to:
- Think outside of the box
- Learn more about how people function physically, socially and emotionally
- Do something different everyday
- Have a positive impact on people’s lives
I felt that a career in occupational therapy would provide me with an opportunity to do all of these, and more, on a daily basis.
Before starting my degree, I had always wanted to work with children and thought paediatric occupational therapy would be the route for me. However, this was the case up until recently but now having been on two, soon to be three, placements working with older adults I feel I am becoming more and more interested in working with adults once I graduate.
Currently, I feel I have a good understanding of dementia from learning about it at university as well as having some experience of supporting loved ones living with dementia. In saying this, I feel there is so much more I still want to learn about and explore within this field, especially in relation to how occupational therapy can support people living with dementia and those that support them within the community.
The main aim of occupational therapy put simply, is to enable people to participate in the activities of everyday life. As we all can probably guess, this becomes more challenging for those who are living with conditions such as dementia. Therefore, I feel there is a real need for the inclusion of occupational therapy within the care of someone living with dementia.
Whilst on placement with Alzheimer Scotland, I have also been given the opportunity to work alongside a fellow occupational therapy student (Gemma) and two physiotherapy students (Steff and Toni). I am very excited by this as it means I will be able to experience the benefits and challenges of working as part of a wider team. It will also mean that we have the opportunity to learn from each other about not only our own professions but also how we each go about approaching all of the different queries and question that may come up over the course of this placement.
As mentioned previously, I have worked and volunteered for several charities. However, all my university placements up until now have been based within the NHS. Over the course of this placement, I am very interested to see how the role of an occupational therapist differs from working within the NHS to working for a third sector organization. I have already noticed that within the third sector it is a lot more about promoting the benefits of occupational therapy and less about following the typical occupational therapy process of carrying out assessments, creating goals and planning and implementing interventions.
At the beginning of each of my placements, I like to set myself learning goals to have reached by the end of the placement. Due to the pandemic this placement is taking place virtually, so I have had to take this into consideration when creating these goals.
My goals for this placement are as follows:
- To further expand my own and others (including other Allied Health Professionals) awareness of the current issues faced by people living with dementia and those that support them
- To promote the role of an Occupational Therapist within the third sector and dementia care, mainly through the use of social media platforms and my attendance at carer support groups
- To provide those living with dementia and those that support them with up to date and evidence-based information around ways of participating and engaging in meaningful activities, well-being for carers, tips for getting out and about during Covid-19 and lots more
I am really looking forward to keeping you all up to date on my progress throughout this placement. In the meantime, please feel free to go and follow Alzheimer Scotland on:
- Twitter: @ahpDementia @abi_OTstudent
- Instagram: @ahpdementia
This is mainly where I will hopefully be posting content around occupational therapy and dementia but please also feel free to contact me with any questions you may have relating to this placement.
Thank you, Abigail 😊