A Day in the Life of a Student Occupational Therapist at Alzheimer Scotland
“My 4 favourite learning opportunities”
I am in my final year of an Occupational Therapy degree at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh and I have just completed an 8 week placement with Alzheimer Scotland. Throughout my short time at Alzheimer Scotland I have had many learning opportunities and access to many resources.
My placement would be described as a “role emerging” placement which means that there is not an established occupational therapy service at the placement and it is part of my role to identify how the skills of occupational therapy and the link between occupation and wellbeing can fit into third sector services.
I have found that this kind of placement has allowed me to explore my own therapeutic style and have the opportunity to put my own stamp on occupational therapy and Alzheimer Scotland services. This blog is titled “A day in the Life of a student occupational therapist at Alzheimer Scotland” however every day of my placement has been totally unique and no two days have been the same, so instead I will share with you my 4 favourite learning opportunities.
- Local & individual
I had the privilege of working with two people living with dementia in their own homes. I worked with two people of a similar age with a diagnosis of dementia but my input for each was completely different! With each of them I took a strength based approach to my therapy.
One person was living with vascular dementia had issues with communication, stimulation and engagement. She required support to link in with her community and was finding ways to engaging with her family and professionals. I liaised with my AHP colleagues within the NHS and social work to ensure that the entire person’s needs were met. Sessions with this person were activity based and we could play dominoes or bingo as I found that a more interactive approach and suited her best as the focus was on engaging in activities that had person meaning to them. It didn’t focus on her lack of communication.
The second person I worked with was completely different; they had a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and was living very well independently. The main issue for this person was confidence and a lack of self-efficacy. We used reminiscence therapy as the basis for our sessions together, looking through cherished family photos and arranging them in a life story book to focus on positive memories and the strength of her long term memory.
- Projects that can make a difference day to day living
My last blog I posted on 6th October (here) was based on a Kitchen Safety project I completed inspired by a client I met at an Alzheimer Scotland group. During the placement I also contributed to an intergeneration garden idea, providing an occupation focus and incorporating evidence to different generations working together to benefit nature and created multi-sensory natural environments. This was a unique opportunity that allowed me to explore the therapeutic benefits of nature, ways to stimulate senses and to consider the practicalities of horticultural occupations and what equipment and adaptations can make participation possible!
- Advocating with Occupational Therapy you CAN
In my experience the profession of Occupational Therapy isn’t well understood. Often we are described as “like a physio” or mistaken for careers advisors. This placement has given me the opportunity to advocate the role and inform people living with dementia and their families about what occupational therapy CAN do for them and how to access all AHP’s. I was able to attend home visits and memory café’s to share information using AHP handouts and “Occupational Therapy CAN” cards as visual aids to ensure people are getting the most from their Allied Health Professionals. I believe this should be the responsibility of all occupational therapists as we deliver an important service that is often limited by lack of understanding.
- Working with the wider Community
What’s special about Alzheimer Scotland is how they work with the wider the community. The aim is reduce stigma and to create dementia friendly communities! I had the opportunity to be part of the dementia friend’s sessions where we reached out to workplaces, health professionals and religious communities to create a better understanding of dementia and what we can do as a society to make the lives on those living with dementia and their families easier.
I also had the opportunity to be involved in the Lanarkshire memory walk where I witnessed a tremendous turnout of people whose lives have been affected by dementia and how everyone came together to raise funds and awareness!
Throughout my placement I have been honoured to meet a lot of special people who have taught me skills both for my occupational therapy career and for my role within my community. #thankyou
I hope this blog has provided some insight into how occupational therapy can be a part of Alzheimer Scotland services and how we can be can integrate our skills as occupational therapists to deliver therapeutic interventions and link people living with dementia to their communities.
I would love to hear from you about your own occupational therapy experiences and post me any questions regarding my 8 weeks at Alzheimer Scotland and the role of an occupational therapist.
Student Occupational Therapist
My name is Nicole Kane and I am a fourth year Occupational therapy student at Queen Margaret University. I am currently with Alzheimer Scotland for 8 weeks completing my final placement. I am based at the Lanarkshire Resource Centre in Motherwell and have been involved in dementia services in both North and South Lanarkshire. My role within this placement is providing an occupation focused perspective to Alzheimer Scotland services.