An Interview with an AHP Dementia Champion
My name is Tracey Stronach and I’m an Occupational Therapist working in a large acute hospital in Edinburgh.
- What do you enjoy most about being an occupational therapist?
I’ve always enjoyed working with elderly people and for a number of years have specialised working with this group of people in both acute and rehabilitation hospital settings. When people ask me what I most enjoy about being an Occupational Therapist, I think it’s the difference I can make by identifying the impact of acute and chronic illness on function and safety and by pro-actively trying to reduce or manage this impact. My training has enabled me to always see the “bigger picture” and appreciate the effects of the environment and social situation as well as the physical and psychological impact of illness and disability.
- Why did you decide to become a dementia champion?
Within dementia care I particularly enjoy using my occupational therapy knowledge to support both the person in hospital and their families and carers at a time when admission to acute care can be distressing. This is especially relevant for a long term condition like dementia, where outcomes are improved with the right environment and a compassionate approach. My role involves identifying services, equipment and adaptations that will improve the quality of life for the person living with dementia and their carer too with the ultimate goal to enable the person to return home.
I was delighted to gain a place on the Dementia Champions programme in 2014, and thoroughly enjoyed my training with colleagues from all over Scotland. Before the course I had read stories of people with dementia who did not experience a good patient journey in acute hospital care. Gaining skills to help improve the experience of such people was a main driver for me applying. I was also keen to make sure I knew as much as possible about identifying, and helping reduce, stressed and distressed behaviour in the acute hospital environment.
- What aspect of the dementia champion education did you enjoy the most?
As well as the taught sessions, I really enjoyed my community placement, where I joined an afternoon singing group in a local church. It was such a positive way to meet people living well with dementia and their families and carers. The community setting was a real contrast to my work environment, where I tend to meet people in a crisis situation. It helped put things in perspective and reinforced the impact that the environment has on the person with dementia. This welcoming atmosphere was very respectful and the volunteers treated those attending in a very inclusive, caring and compassionate way. My assignments helped me to reflect on what I had learnt and identified what ideas and learning I could take back to my workplace.
- What has been your proudest moment integrating your new learning as a dementia champion in you day job?
At the same time as becoming a Dementia Champion I took part in a course focussing on learning skills to train others in Dementia Awareness.
Working with other Occupational Therapists, and using the Dementia Skilled – Improving Practice resource, we have run some training sessions for the support staff in our occupational therapy department. The feedback has been very positive and the sessions have generated discussion, reflection and the sharing of ideas. I think my proudest moments come when I can see that someone has used the information taught to make a positive change in caring for someone with dementia. This could be a practical skill; using more sensitive or up to date terminology; or altering a perception or belief. The change needn’t be huge – even a small change can make a big difference!
- What would you say to your colleagues to encourage them to be a dementia champion too?
I feel very privileged to have completed two major programmes of learning in the field of dementia care. I would recommend anyone to take up the opportunity of training – the more Dementia Champions we have, the better care we can provide for people living with dementia – and their families and carers. I’m sure this is the highest priority for all those who work with people living with dementia.
I’d be interested to hear how other Dementia Champions are putting their training into practice.
- What’s been working well?
- How do we demonstrate we make a difference to the lives of those with dementia?
Specialist Occupational Therapist – Mobile Medicine of the Elderly Team
I’m an Occupational Therapist working in a large acute hospital in Edinburgh. I’m part of a mobile Medicine of the Elderly team which involves working with people being treated on non-Medicine of the Elderly wards within our hospital. This brings equity of care to this often vulnerable group of people.