Occupational Therapy and Dementia

Reflections from occupational therapy students on placement at Alzheimer Scotland

Meet Gemma

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

Thanks, Gemma 😊
Twitter accounts: @_gemmaOT @AhpDementia
Instagram account: ahpdementia

Meet Abigail

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 😊

The Power of Music and Dance – why they’re good for the brain

“Music is one of the last things to go.”

This was said to me shortly after my mother had been moved to a care home. 

My father and I had been discussing how to make things nicer for Mum. She was, at that point, quite far along in the illness and had lost the ability to speak or recognise us. Occasionally, however, there would be a flash of knowing in her eyes and it was clear that she needed things to brighten her day. So Dad took in a little music player and put her old favourites on—Gilbert and Sullivan, Grieg, the theme from The Dambusters—and when he played Capriccio Italian, she swayed in time and moved her hand.

The sort of moment that both hurts and elates. The sort of moment to which some of you might relate.

It was around that time that I started to become aware of the power that music has on the brain and, with the addition of my own experiences, the power of dance. 

Mum had been ill for a few years when I, at the ripe old age of 28, decided to try ballet for the first time. Very quickly, one class a week was not enough and I started to observe positive changes within myself, not just physically, but mentally as well. 

Naturally, with these two big things in my life, Alzheimer’s and ballet, articles and research about the effects of music and dance on the brain became particularly interesting to me.

So, what is it about music?

Before we get to the science, think for a moment about a favourite song or piece of music. It gives you pleasure to listen to it, doesn’t it? When it comes on the radio, you turn the volume up, you might nod your head in time or sing along at the top of your lungs. Memories are stirred to the surface—when you first heard it, when you went to the performance, when you danced to it surrounded by family and friends. It transports you to another time and another place. As Trisha Yearwood sang, “the song remembers when”.

We don’t usually stop to think about it, but there is an extraordinary power in the music.

As a species, music is part of our DNA. We see it across the ages, from small children unknowingly bouncing in time to a song, to our older relatives tapping a finger to a favourite melody. Why we have evolved this way is, according to Scientific American, still a biological mystery: has it aided in our survival as a species, such as through social cohesion, or is it merely, “to use the words of Harvard University’s Steven Pinker, … just auditory cheesecake—a happy accident of evolution that happens to tickle the brain’s fancy”.1

Whatever the reason, studies show that it lights up our brains in fascinating ways and that there is no one centre of the brain that processes music. Instead, as the article explains, “[it] engages many areas distributed throughout the brain, including those that are usually involved in other kinds of cognition”. 

Below is an image of the areas of the brain reacting to music, as created by neuroscientists Robert Zatorre and Valorie Salimpoor:

(Business Insider, “What Our Brain Looks Like When It Hears Music”, by R. Ferris2)

For all of us, music causes different areas of the brain to communicate and, according to a Music and Memory blog, it causes the release of dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter that “helps to regulate the brain’s pleasure and reward centers, as well as emotional responses and motivation”.

But what does that mean for people with dementia?

“That dopamine boost … may be one of the key reasons why music is such a powerful means to enable people with Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia to connect to positive memories and feel more peaceful and engaged with the world.”3

A smaller study in the States found:

“[O]bjective evidence from brain imaging … shows personally meaningful music is an alternative route for communicating with patients who have Alzheimer’s disease … Language and visual memory pathways are damaged early as the disease progresses, but personalized music programs can activate the brain, especially for patients who are losing contact with their environment.”4

So, to sum up, listening to music encourages multiple areas of the brain to work, even if some parts are not working well anymore, and helps bring about a feeling of calm. A win-win situation.

And dance?

Dance has also been around since we first started advancing as a species and it could be described as the demonstration of the music in the brain through the body. Most of us ‘demonstrate’ naturally, without choreographed steps or learned movements. How many of us suddenly find ourselves walking in time to the Red Hot Chilli Pipers being blasted onto Princes Street? 

When we start learning to dance in a particular way—counting the beats, making our limbs move at a certain time in a certain motion—we are asking our brains to engage even further and work harder. 

Added to that, dance is exercise (despite it being more fun than a session at the gym) and recent studies have shown that regular exercise is one of the key combatants in the fight against dementia:

“Several studies looking at the effect of aerobic exercise (exercise that increases your heart rate) in middle-aged or older adults have reported improvements in thinking and memory, and reduced rates of dementia. …

Combining the results of 11 studies shows that regular exercise can significantly reduce the risk of developing dementia by about 30 per cent. For Alzheimer’s disease specifically, the risk was reduced by 45 per cent.”5

Dance as a therapy is not a new line of thought—dance teachers have long been talking of the benefits of movement to music. Edinburgh local Chris Stuart-Wilson, for example, has been taking his dance expertise to care homes through his “Seated Swing” and Dance for Dementia programs (https://www.facebook.com/watch/?ref=external&v=1491168027574077). 

“The classes … not only help to maintain muscle tone by providing light, physical exercise, they also aim to improve memory retention and elevate mood….

Having run these sessions for [over] 10 years, Chris has identified that music and dance is hugely therapeutic.”6

A very recent pilot study done in New Zealand supports Chris’s long held theory:

“The study results … show participants reported significant improvements in their quality of life after session six.

‘They responded to the music greatly and showed enthusiasm in moving to the music regardless of their physical limitation. Positive responses such as memory recalling, spontaneous dancing and joking with each other were observed in every session.’”7

What can we do now?

The challenges of COVID-19 have been vast and have swept across all walks of life. For people with dementia and their families it has been very cruel. 

That desperate feeling of ‘How can I help’ is, I’m sure, not uncommon. While it can feel overwhelming when we can’t fix everything, it’s important to remember, to borrow Tesco’s phrase, “every little helps”. Something seemingly whimsical, like music and dance, can brighten someone’s day and the science shows they are actually beneficial. 

They help

So please consider music and dance when thinking of ways to make the days easier. Arrange a playlist of favourite pieces or look into easy-to-use radios that you can program to favourite stations (here’s an example: https://shop.alzheimers.org.uk/cds-and-dvds/One-Button-Radio-Alzheimers-Society?search=radio&description=true).

Charities and organisations have been finding ways to help engage in music and dance as well:

Written by Frances, a Helpline call handler and ballet devotee

Endnotes:

  1. Scientific American, “Music and the Brain”, by N.M. Weinberger, 01.09.06: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/music-and-the-brain-2006-09/
  2. Business Insider, “What Our Brain Looks Like When It Hears Music”, by R. Ferris, 11.06.11: https://www.businessinsider.com/image-of-our-brain-listening-to-music-2013-6
  3. Music and Memory blog, “Nature’s Wake-up Call: How Music Lights Up the Brain”, 20.06.14 https://musicandmemory.org/blog/2014/06/20/natures-wake-up-call-how-music-lights-up-the-brain/#:~:text=A%20PET%20scan%20traces%20an,as%20emotional%20responses%20and%20motivation
  4. Neuroscience News website, “Music Activates Regions of the Brain Spared by Alzheimer’s”, 27.04.18: https://neurosciencenews.com/music-alzheimers-8895/
  5. Alzheimer’s Society website, “Physical exercise and dementia”: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/about-dementia/risk-factors-and-prevention/physical-exercise
  6. Chris J Stuart-Wilson website: http://www.chrisjswilson.com/classes-and-workshops
  7. Science Daily website, “Positive effect of music and dance on dementia proven by New Zealand study”, 08.08.19: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/08/190808091401.htm

Further reading:

Margaret’s story

My name is Margaret, I was diagnosed with Frontotemporal Dementia at the age of 51. Like many other people with dementia, it took a while to get a diagnosis and I was still in full time employment whilst going through this process. Losing my job was an upsetting experience for me and I am sharing my story to help others who may find themselves in my situation.

My working life

I was fortunate to have worked since I left school, I had a varied and enjoyable working career. The last place I worked I was there for 10 or 11 years, although I had worked at lots of other jobs before this. Up to that point I had always held jobs at director level, I was a PA and did admin work as well, I always multi tasked!

In 2015, I was working as a secretary for a large, well know organisation when I started noticing problems with my memory. I spoke to one of my sisters about my concerns. She said “oh it’s probably just an age thing but if you are that worried then go and see your GP” which I did. I underwent a series of written tests.  I spoke to my line manager to keep her in the loop and she was very understanding.

When my line manager later told me an appointment had been made with Occupational Health, I thought it was related to a hearing problem. I previously had a burst ear drum and assumed the appointment was to check the telephone that work had provided was suitable. What actually happened was I was given another written test, which I obviously didn’t do correctly as I was told there and then that I couldn’t go back to work – I was just to go straight home. I was thinking I can’t go home – I have stuff to do! I was really shocked. I made my way to the city centre and phoned my sister who came to meet me as I was really quite upset.

What happened next

Apart from being annoyed about not going back to work I was worried about how to tell other members of my family, as up until this point I had only told one of my sisters. My family couldn’t have been more supportive though. Throughout the time of me not working I still had to go back for meetings with my line manager and HR. Because I was a member of a union I wanted to see if the correct procedure was being followed so decided to contact my union representative.  That’s when I was told that if it had been cancer I would have been kept on, but because it was a mental thing I had to stop working. So, on 1 June 2015 I stopped work, which was upsetting as I had worked since I left school.

“When I contacted my union rep, I was told that  if it had been cancer I would have been kept on, but because it was a mental thing I was let go and that was a good few months before I got a final diagnosis”

My diagnosis

So, I was getting my head around not working anymore and at the same time everything else that was happening to me.  From the neuropsychology test it was determined that something had happened in my brain and I was referred to the Neuropsychology department at the Southern General Hospital, and that’s where I was given various scans, lumbar punctures etc. The consultant was really nice, but I didn’t get a final diagnosis until the summer of 2016. A fair amount of time had passed and although I had been paid by work for a few months after I left it was really difficult dealing with the Department of Work and Pensions, I had never been unemployed before.

“I really do think employers should be made to think more about how they treat staff when they have been given a diagnosis like mine. ”

What could have been done differently?

Apart from being shocked by losing my job I was really upset as well. In myself I knew I could still have done something, even if it was a lower grade. My employer never explored any options like that with me though. On one hand I was an important part of the team, and then on the other hand it was just “cheerio”. It felt like there was nothing I could do about it though. Wherever you work, your employers know what a good worker you are or not. Instead of just a blanket ‘no you can’t work’ they could have suggested a less stressful role but they didn’t. I think employers should be more mindful of how things are explained. I really do think employers should be made to think more about how they treat staff when they have been given a diagnosis like mine.

Moving on

I still miss work, I enjoyed going to work and meeting up with my colleagues and going to meetings. I’m fortunate that I have a great family and support network, but it was upsetting to me that I couldn’t work. It really made me feel awful.  The first 3 years of my diagnosis were really hard but I just really thankful for family, friends and my faith that have helped me get over that. Despite what happened at work my colleagues are still in touch. I just find it really strange the way I was treated.

I always enjoyed music though and I am still involved with a choir. Music is my ‘go to’ if I am feeling stressed. I joined the Scottish Dementia Working Group in 2019. It has given me the opportunity to have my voice heard, to get involved with campaigning for the rights of people with dementia, and to meet people from all walks of life who can understand my experiences. 

“Dementia is treated differently from other conditions and there is an inequality there. For other conditions adaptations are made but with dementia it’s like you can’t work anymore.”

Physiotherapy and Dementia

Reflections from physiotherapy students on placement at Alzheimer Scotland

Meet Toni

My name is Toni Robertson and this week’s blog will be an introduction to me and my involvement with Alzheimer Scotland whilst on placement as part of my university course for the next 8 weeks.

I am a physiotherapy student and currently completing my last year of an MSc physiotherapy degree at Edinburgh Napier University. Many of you, like myself may wonder – what does a physiotherapist do at Alzheimer Scotland? Well hopefully over the next few weeks as I improve my understanding of this, I can help generate some awareness to others.

Here’s a bit about my background to start off with. Before and during my degree I have been working as a physiotherapy assistant in the care of the elderly wards in a busy hospital environment in the NHS in Scotland.  Through this job I have encountered a lot of people living with cognitive impairment, the majority of which were living with Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia. In this role I am working with people, while living with dementia, they will also have been overcoming another medical illness and I have been working with the individual to regain their independence in an unfamiliar hospital environment or unfamiliar people and staff

Something interesting I have found is that during these encounters’, music seems to be a therapist’s best friend. Engaging a person living with dementia through music and singing has always been such a satisfying part of delivering physiotherapy input because you know you are both enjoying the session!

I am now very excited at having the opportunity to join Alzheimer Scotland so that I can see how physiotherapy can help people living dementia in the community, supporting them from initial diagnosis and working as part of a wider team of professionals such as occupational therapist to enable these people to have as much independence as possible in their lives. During this placement I will have a fellow physiotherapy student (and friend) Steff, working with me to explore and promote the role of physiotherapy is within dementia.

Dementia as a topic is huge and there is so much learning to be done for me around the different types of dementia and what impact this has on a person and their support network of family and friends. An extremely important part of dementia appears to be that every individual is affected differently and what works for one doesn’t work for all so this is something myself as a student and other therapists should always keep at the forefront of their mind.

An added learning experience for me on this placement is that due to Covid-19, face to face contact has not yet resumed at Alzheimer Scotland and therefore my placement will be virtual. This meaning both myself and Steff will have to adapt to using many platforms of technology for communication with not only other professionals within the organisation but also the people living with dementia and their carers. I believe we will be learning first hand the impact that Covid-19 has had on people living with dementia and hopefully we can be part of identifying areas where physiotherapy can help.

Over the next 8 weeks we hope to use social media to promote physiotherapy within dementia and I will be posting to the Alzheimer Scotland twitter @AhpDementia, so keep an eye out for this! I will keep you all updated on what I am learning and please feel free to contact me with any questions around this placement.

Meet Steff

My name is Stephanie Scurfield, however everyone calls me Steff. I am a 2nd year Physiotherapy (pre-registration) student at Edinburgh Napier University, and I am excited to be working with Alzheimer Scotland for the next 7 weeks. I have previously studied sport and exercise science, where injuries and living with different conditions became my interest.

Physiotherapy has a lot to offer many people living with dementia, from improving mobility, and decreasing the risk of falling, to improving strength and balance to improve general functioning when completing day to day activities. Physiotherapy, along with other Allied Health Professionals, focus on improving quality of life for all and improving and maintaining function to maintain independence in day to day activities.

For this reason, Physiotherapy students have been more involved with Alzheimer Scotland over the last few years and I am very proud to now be working with them. I am excited at the opportunity to work with not only another Physiotherapy student but others in the charity that represent other healthcare professions such as Occupational Therapists. I feel that working with the charity and others in different roles will give me the opportunity not only to understand their position and what they can offer but improve my own understanding of what it is I can offer as a Physiotherapy student and later as a newly qualified Physiotherapist.

I believe a placement such as this, working with a charity, will improve any practitioners understanding of what it means to treat the whole person. I have found through more traditional placements that some are focused on treating one particular and specific problem, however I have always found this is not the case. Treating the whole person, listening and addressing the issues that they are concerned about allows us to maximise the effect that we can have and increase their quality of life.

Due to this new world we find ourselves in, created by Covid-19, I have had to rethink my aims for this placement. My new aims focus on:

  • Providing well-being and healthcare information based on the current evidence
  • Informing other students and healthcare professionals in ways to be more dementia aware
  • Using social media to spread information on healthcare and well-being to a wider range of people
  • Providing comprehensive information for those living with dementia, carers, friends and family on tips to creating a safer home environment and how to reduce the risk of falling at home
  • Using the most effective and up to date methods to spread information to the widest population possible
  • Promoting the existing work that Alzheimer Scotland do

I look forward to updating you on my progress, however, please feel free to follow Alzheimer Scotland on twitter, facebook and Instagram to see everything I am posting. I welcome any feedback you might want to provide and look forward to hearing from you all.  Thank you,

Contributors

Caring for Carers During Covid

Alzheimer Scotland have been supporting carers via their Helpline throughout the Coronavirus pandemic and Lockdown. Calls have been many and varied as carers seek to cope alone without access to their usual support, activities and companionship.

There are 759,000 carers in Scotland, 29,000 of whom are young carers. The statistics are alarming. Figures compiled by the charity Dementia Carers’ Count show that 40% of people who care for someone with dementia do so 24 hours a day, 7 days a week which if it was costed out would come to £13.9bn a year. It saves health and social care a fortune, but the personal cost is enormous. This costs UK business over £3billion a year, with the number of people who have had to leave paid employment to care for someone with dementia due to rise to 83,130 by 2030. 10% dementia carers live in poverty. It could be you, it could be me. As one carer said to me “It’s a job I didn’t ever expect or ask for.”

Being a carer is complicated, at the start many carers report a sense of love combined with a sense of duty, many carers wouldn’t even call themselves carers at all “I’m his wife, his daughter, his sister…”. But as time goes by, needs become more complex and the relationship more complicated. I love my 3 teens fiercely but ask me to be with them 24/7, care for all their physical and mental needs, help them wash, dress, eat … it’s no wonder The Carer’s Trust report that carers experience sigificantly higher levels of stress, anxiety, mental and physical health issues. Navigating a health and social care system, understanding rights and benefits, 3rd sector support is in itself a full time job.

In Scotland we have the Carers (Scotland) Act 2016 and the Carers’ Charter and it’s important for us as AHPs supporting people that we know about this important legislation. See more here: https://www.alzscot.org/living-with-dementia/caring-for-someone-with-dementia

The Ideas Team in NHS Dumfries & Galloway worked with the local Carers’ Centre to create this poster to support carers of people with dementia and it has never been more relevant. Sometimes it’s obvious why we’re feeling out of sorts and stressed, other times not so much. The poster provides practical advice to help a carer explore why they might be feeling stressed. I would ask AHPs to copy the photo onto their iPad or phone and maybe use it as a way to talk to carers they meet who may be struggling at this time, to signpost them to support. There are lots of useful links at the bottom of the page to help you be more carer aware.

The poster supports carers to think about…

C for Comfort – are you physically and mentally comfortable?

Are you hungry, thirsty, when did you last get a full night’s sleep, soak in a bath? Has anyone shown you how to lift, move, assist? Did you miss you flu jab, your own doctor’s appointment? Hopefully the roll out of the new NHS Near Me video consultation service will support carers further to attend their own health checks.

E for Environment – what’s around and about you?

Do you get your daily exercise, is your house full of medical kit, do you have a space to call your own? Do you know about the Short Breaks Fund?

A for Activity – can you do the stuff you love, that makes your heart sing?

When did you last do something that makes you happy, whatever that may be? The television and social media seems full of people who have been making art, watching box sets, baking bread, getting fit – are you able to join in and do something just for you?

S for Social Contact – have you got someone to talk to?

Who can you talk to for support? Are you consulted and informed? Particularly important to keep those conversations flowing when not all visitors are allowed in care homes. Many hospitals will allow carers of people with dementia to visit at this time as an exception to the rule. Dementia Nurse or AHP Consultant’s can help advise with this. Can you use Zoom, What’s App, the phone or good old pen and paper to keep connected at this time? It’s not the same, and I know it’s so hard, nothing replaces a hug.

E for Engaging – do you know about your benefits and rights, do you have a back up plan?

The Carers Centre can support people with carers’ assessments and AHPs can support carers in making referals to the Centre, always seek permission first. Supporting someone with dementia is never a one person job, we need a web of support around us.

As AHPS we are in a unique position to support people, so let’s not make it harder than it needs to be. Let’s always work in collaboration with carers, asking “What Matters to you?” “I’d like to do this, but is this do-able for you, how can we make this work together?” “Is now the right time, the right place to do this?” Let’s keep having those positive conversations… I know we can.

Useful Links:

Alzheimer Scotland Carers page, lots of practical hints, tips and resources: https://www.alzscot.org/living-with-dementia/caring-for-someone-with-dementia/resources-for-carers

Allied Health Professionals have prepared guidance and resources for people with dementia and those who support them. https://www.alzscot.org/information-and-resources-by-our-allied-health-professionals

Carers Trust, advice on things that affect all carers, inc young care groups: https://carers.org/

Dementia Carers Count, provide virtual carers centre and 3 day courses on a variety of subjects free of charge for carers of people with dementia : https://dementiacarers.org.uk/

Tide Carers, advocate and empower carers, some Carer Lockdown stories here: https://www.tide.uk.net/join_tide/experiences-stories/

Contributor

Helen Moores-Poole

Advanced Speech & Language Therapist

Adult SLT Service, NHS Dumfries & Galloway

helenmoores-poole@nhs.net or on Twitter @moores_poole