Photographing Meaningful Occupation


The Occupational Therapy Interns and AHP Volunteer have been leading on a “photo narrative project” over the summer with members of the Scottish Dementia Working Group (SDWG). The aim of the project was to capture the everyday occupations of people living with dementia with photographs.

When I talk about “occupations”, I am talking about the everyday activities that we all do as individuals, in families and within our communities, to bring meaning and purpose to our lives. Occupations include things we need to, want to and are expected to do (WFOT 2017).

Our project allows us to spend the day with different members of the group, where ever they lived, talking about what they enjoy, how they spent their time, understanding what is important to each of them and then capturing this through the use of images and taking photographs. We hope that the photos captured, will show the individuality of each participant and bring attention to the roles that they CAN carry out as part of society.

In order to present the voice of people from across Scotland we travelled to the SDWG members in the cities, rural communities and islands. We hope to use different technology in the way that we exhibit and share the narratives and photographs. We are lucky to have an events management graduate @McNEmilyJane to support us with this.

This project was also designed, more importantly to meet the SDWG’s 2017 priorities:

  • Challenging stigma and changing the image of dementia
  • Presenting a strong collective voice of diverse people with dementia across Scotland
  • Using and exploring new technology to support the work
  • Supporting a well-trained collective work force

Personal Photo Narrative Projects – getting started?

As part of our preparations as occupational therapy interns and AHP volunteers for the project, everyone involved completed their very own photo narrative project in order to try and experience what the participants may be feeling throughout the project. The photo narrative project involved us spending time taking photographs of what we believe is meaningful to our own lives. We then spent time writing a short excerpt of text for each photo on why it is important and what we gain from it. To help us in the process, we all picked a theme for our photos and took time in capturing what is meaningful to us. Below I have included small excerpts from each of our personal photo narratives.

Nicole Kane- Physical, Psychological and Social Wellbeing through Occupation

Despite graduation celebrations not being a regular occurrence in my life, for me my graduation was a symbol of my hard work and accomplishments over the past four years; the continuous learning experiences that have been part of my journey have added to wellbeing by constantly challenging my views and adding to my skillset. As I complete my undergraduate degree and move onto to new challenges it’s important to me to remember how new experiences and opportunities contribute to my wellbeing. More importantly however graduation was a time to celebrate the people who had been part of my educational journey. I take a collectivist approach to life and believe that no one ever does anything in isolation. My graduation involved the lecturers who have shared their knowledge and sparked my interests, my classmates who have helped me learn and challenged my thoughts, and finally my friends and family who listened to my complaints and constantly encouraged me. I believe that all aspects of my university career have contributed to my wellbeing and that the social supports that I have received throughout my role as a student are the key to my wellbeing.

Beth Crockett- Discovery through Occupation

Of course, my role as a student and intern is how I spend the majority of my time. One of the primary motivators I had in applying for this internship is that I felt I was lacking experience working with people with dementia. Past experience is a main source of knowledge that occupational therapists (and students) can draw upon and I felt as this was a step that I need to take in order to gain that experience. I was elated at the chance to learn from those with a wealth of knowledge in the SDWG and other experienced interns. Once again, my sense of discovery leads me to strive for professional development in my journey to becoming an occupational therapist.

Lynsey Robertson-Flannigan- Occupational Balance

As my mornings are busy whilst I get myself and my baby ready, I try to ensure I arrive at work early so that I have some time to myself to drink a cup of coffee and put some makeup on – another two activities that are meaningful to me.




Emily Duffy- Self Awareness Through Occupation

Another activity that provides ample opportunity to listen to my thoughts and reflect upon them, or equally drown them out when my thoughts feel too busy is by taking in the scenery or talking to a friend whilst walking and running. Living in Edinburgh, there is no shortage of places to go for this, but I like to challenge myself with Arthur’s Seat regularly. Not only do I feel this is important for my mental wellbeing, but equally important for my physical wellbeing.

This activity holds more meaning to me than just physical activity however. Having grown up in the countryside, and for a large portion of it in a caravan, being outdoors is very important to me. Not only does it give me a sense of freedom, but having been surrounded by the countryside until moving to Edinburgh, I have a great interest in nature and developed a strong passion for environmental sustainability during my Events Management degree, and would eventually go on to write about this topic in my final university project.

Going Forward

We hope that the photographs captured with the SDWG member can be shared to challenge the stigma and negative image of dementia by demonstrating that people living with dementia CAN  still be valued and active members of the community! They CAN still fulfil roles that important to them be is as a friend, a husband or SDWG member.

This year the work will be shared formally for the first time at the Alzheimer Europe Conference in Berlin this October #27AEC. The chairman of the Scottish Dementia Working Group @ARCHIE41241748 will be presenting some of the work of the interns with the support of Alzheimer Scotland’s National Allied Health Professional Consultant @ElaineAHPmh and @MacleanFiona from Queen Margaret University who both lead on the internship partnership between Queen Margaret University, Alzheimer Scotland and Santander Universities UK.

This year’s interns plan on sharing this work further by displaying the projects at various conferences next year including the Alzheimer Scotland 2018 Conference in partnership with the Scottish Dementia Working Group.

Watch this space for future events and projects which will have the photo narrative projects at the centre. The individuals involved in this project all live well with a diagnosis of dementia!



What do you think about using photography as a media to capture what’s important to someone?

How can we challenge the stigma and negative image of dementia?


Keep upto date with what the OT Inters and AHP Volunteer are doing by following the hashtags #OTInterns17 and #AHPVolunteer17






Instagram @ahpdementia



WFOT., 2017. Definition of Occupational Therapy. [viewed 14th of August 2017]

“Occupational Balance” what does it mean & why is it important?

Occupational Balance – what is it?
Whilst studying occupational therapy I read a great deal about ‘occupational balance’ and how it can contribute to a healthy life, but until recently I had never really considered the implications of achieving occupational balance and what it is that makes it so important. Backman (2004, p 208) defines occupational balance as

“…a relative state, recognizable by a happy or pleasant integration of life activities and demands”

Backman (2004) is explaining that occupational balance is a way of being, rather than a specific activity or task, and achieved by taking part in daily activities that do not overwhelm, and result in feelings of positivity, satisfaction and achievement.
Although ‘occupational balance’ is not a term widely used outside of occupational therapy, I would like to suggest that it is however an idea that is considered and discussed regularly by us all. I would like you to think of occupational balance as the things we do every day and include our work/life balance; family life; leisure time; relaxation and the balance of each area that a person fits into their daily life.

Occupational Balance & Dementia
Maintaining occupational balance is important for both people with dementia and their family carers. Phinney et al (2007) explain that participation in a variety of activities is essential for the well-being of people with dementia and offers opportunities for social interaction as well as feelings of purpose and enjoyment.
As health professionals, it is our responsibility to ensure that the people we are working with are able to maintain their activities of daily living by adapting and altering the way this is done in line with the progression of their dementia. It could also be argued that it is equally important for us to work just as hard to ensure a person with dementia is still able to take part in ALL activities that are meaningful to them.
Another barrier to achieving occupational balance is time, a difficulty that can be faced by family carers of people with dementia. The National Strategy for Carers (Department of Health 2010) states that there is a growing need for health professionals to work with carers to ensure that their own physical and psychological health is maintained. Hall and Skelton (2012) reiterate the importance of this in their observation that a family carer can easily burn out and become unable to continue caring for their loved one or family member as a result of this. It is essential that family carers for people with dementia are supported to maintain occupational balance, whether that be achieved through access to respite, carer groups or support in fitting their own activities into their day-to-day lives.









My Own Reflections on Occupational Balance
As mentioned previously, I had not considered occupational balance in great detail up until recently. As an occupational therapy intern with Alzheimer Scotland and Queen Margaret University, I was asked to spend some time photographing my day as part of a bigger project that this year’s team of interns and volunteer are working on together.
I decided to theme by photographs around ‘occupational balance’. Taking these photographs required me to step back and think about if and how I was managing to achieve occupational balance in my life. As a mum of a one year old and also working three days per week in a hospital and two days with Alzheimer Scotland, I think it is fair to say that I am quite a busy person at the moment, a factor that I hadn’t appreciated before taking my photos! I realized however that I don’t feel stretched or that I am doing too much, and that I achieve this by making sure I have small parts of each day to take part in activities that are important to me, for example arriving at work early to put my makeup on and have a coffee, enjoying bath and story time with my little boy, and ensuring that I have time to relax in the evenings.
My main take-home message from my day spent taking photographs is that occupational balance really isn’t something that most of us do consciously until we step back and think about it. Having the time, ability and opportunity to take part in a range of different activities is so important for health and well-being, and is something that each and every person has the right to.







1. Are you achieving occupational balance in your day today? If not, what could you do to change this
2. If you are a healthcare professional, is there more that you could do to encourage and enable occupational balance for the people you work with?

By Lynsey Robertson-Flannigan
Occupational Therapy Intern 2017

BACKMAN,C.L., 2004. Occupational Balance: Exploring the Relationships among Daily Occupations and Their Influence on Well-Being. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy [online]. Vol. 71, pp. 202-209. [viewed 01 August 2017]. Available from:
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH., 2010. Recognised, valued and supported: next steps for the carers strategy [online]. [viewed 07 August 2017]. Available from:
HALL, L. AND SKELTON, D.A., 2012. Occupational therapy for caregivers of people with dementia: a review of the united kingdom literature. British Journal of Occupational Therapy [online]. Vol. 75, no. 6, pp. 281-288. [viewed 07 August 2017]. Available from:
PHINNEY, A., CHAUDREY,. H. AND O’CONNOR, D. L., 2007. Doing as much as I can do: the meaning of activity for people with dementia. Aging and Mental Health [online]. Vol. 11, no. 4, pp. 284-293. [viewed 07 August 2017]. Available from:

Occupational Therapy Interns and AHP Volunteer Instagram Takeover

As part of the occupational therapy interns and AHP volunteer summer takeover we will be taking over the AHP Dementia Instagram Account. Instagram is a form of social media that allows users to convey information through photographs and images. There will be a new addition to the Instagram every week day from a member of the AHP Team!

MONDAYS: Top tips for living well with Dementia

(Lynsey Robertson-Flannigan, Occupational Therapy Intern)

Transparent kitchen appliances can make it easy to see when the kettle is boiling or if the toast is ready. Stay tuned for more #toptips for #livingwell with #dementia over the coming weeks! #ahpdementia #otinterns2017

TUESDAYS: General tips for wellbeing

(Emily Duffy, AHP Volunteer)

Relaxation is essential for reducing stress and improving your overall #wellbeing, including better sleep and a healthier mind. Today, do something relaxing that you enjoy. Whether it’s taking a walk up Arthur’s Seat, mucking about in the garden, or reading your favourite book, doing something that makes you feel good will be reflected in your overall #wellbeing #AHPdementia #alliedhealthprofessionals #otinterns2017 #otinterns #arthurseat #occupationaltherapy

WEDNESDAYS: Let’s Talk About Dementia Blog Promotion and feature photo from personal narrative of meaningful occupations.                    

 (Nicole Marie Kane, Occupational Therapy Intern)


Alzheimer Scotland’s Occupational Therapy Interns and AHP Volunteer have been conducting their own photography projects to capture what’s meaningful to them!

Follow our projects by signing up to the blog or on twitter with the #OTInterns17 #AHPVolunteer17 #AHPDementia #ConnectingPeople #ConnectingSupport

 THURSDAYS: Based on a AHP leaflet – Did you know: Occupations with an AHP feature                        (Beth Crockett, Occupational Therapy Intern)


#OTinterns17’s Thursday theme is highlighting how #ahp CAN support people with dementia. Did you know OCCUPATIONAL THERAPISTS can support people with dementia to continue doing everyday activities they find meaningful? So whether it is getting dressed for work, for your role as a parent or grandparent or participate in your favorite hobby, occupational therapists take a holistic approach to dementia care. Find out more about what Occupational Therapy can offer at #valueofOT #AHPDementia #ConnectingPeople #ConnectingSupport

FRIDAYS: Connecting people through conversation and enquiry

(Elaine Hunter, National AHP Consultant)

AHPDementia, connecting people through conversation & inquiry What did the stories tell us what really matters if you live with dementia ? Listening – you told us being LISTENED to in itself had a huge positive impact, you had stories to tell. The quality of our listening was important too, really seeking to understand what matters most to people & hear the whole story #ConnectingSupport #ConnectingPeople #OTIntern17 #AHPDementia #ahpvolunteer17 @nicolemariekane @bc_rocks @mcnemilyjane @lynsey_flannigan

Our aim is to use different social media platforms to share our work with a wider group of people in new and exciting ways. We will use the social media platform of Instagram to challenge the stigma surrounding dementia, to highlight how the different AHP professions can make a positive impact on the lives of those living with dementia, and to offer practical advice to family members, carers and people living with dementia. The captions associated with each photo posted will be informed by literature, research evidence, conversations with people living with dementia and their carers, and through collaboration with other AHPs and students. Already we can see that our Top Tips for living well with dementia are proving popular and we will be looking to provide more practical hints and tips throughout the account.

The occupational therapy interns and AHP volunteer are currently completing a range of projects which challenge the negative image of dementia and utilise photography as a creative way to capture what’s important for those living with dementia. As part of our preparation we all completed a personal photography project to allow us to fully understand the process of capturing our lives on camera; the Instagram account will give us a platform to share the photographs we have taken and the meaning behind them for us.

We hope that our blog subscribers will support our Instagram account and follow us @AHPDementia. You can comment below on what self-help information you would like us to include on the Instagram? Would you like to know more about allied health professional or how to support your loved ones? Please let us know, we are happy to receive your feedback.

You can keep up to date with all of our projects and activities on twitter with the hashtags #OTInterns17 and #AHPVolunteer17.






An Occupational Therapy Intern’s experience of conducting a literature search: My 4 Top Tips

blog 1Meet Beth

Hello! My name is Elizabeth (Beth) Crockett and I am international student, originally from Canada, currently completing my Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy at Queen Margaret University. Continuing on with the “Occupational Therapy Intern Blog Takeover” this week, I’d like to introduce you to one of the projects I have been working on this summer.

Supporting the ambition of a skilled AHP workforce

As part of the strategic alliance between Queen Margaret University (@QMUUniversity) and Alzheimer Scotland (@alzscot), an Allied Health Profession (AHP) MSc module, co-designed for rights based practice and dementia, ( was launched in 2015/16 by Dr. Fiona Maclean (@MacleanFiona) and Elaine (@elaineahpmh). This module was developed with contributions from both the Scottish Dementia Working Group (@S_D_W_G) and the National Dementia Carers Action Network (@NDCAN_Scotland).

Supporting Families and Carers

To further support the work that has gone into designing this module, and to advance the occupational therapy intern contributions to the strategic objective of NDCAN, I am conducting a literature search, regarding the contribution that occupational therapy CAN have for families, partners and carers of those with dementia. This work will also support the commitments in the newly launched “Scotland’s National Dementia Strategy 2017-2020” ( ), with particular emphasis on Commitment 10: Connecting People, Connecting Support ( and the “Support for Carers” pillar of the Advanced Dementia Practice and 8 Pillar Model of Comprehensive Integrated Support Model.


Conducting my first structured literature search

Although I have learned how to conduct literature searches as part of my MSc in Occupational Therapy education, this is my first attempt at undertaking a structured literature search with rigor for future presentation. As such, I thought it was important to keep track of my reflections and strategies I used so that I can learn from this experience, something that will be invaluable as I move on to writing my MSc dissertation next summer and can also take into any future work as an occupational therapist.

My 4 top tips to conducting a literature search

1. A well-structured search blog 2The first step for me was to review HOW to perform a well structured literature search. For this, I utilized my professional body, the Royal College of Occupational Therapy (@TheRCOT) and found a very useful guide. Members can get access to the resource (search for evidence: literature searching) with the following link:

2. Team workblog 3Enhanced outcomes occur when we are willing to share and collaborate as team. As a future AHP, and as part of the Queen Margaret University and Alzheimer Scotland partnership, I wanted to draw on the experience of my colleagues. One of the first people that I wanted to liaise with was my Occupational Therapy Liaison Librarian at Queen Margaret University, Sheila Williams. Her excellent support and guidance was extremely helpful at the outset of this project. I will also be coordinating with the Research Manager in Public Policy at Alzheimer Scotland (Lindsay Kinnaird) and various other staff and post graduate students at Queen Margaret University (Ian Macmillan, Fiona Maclean, PHD student Niamh Kinsella) to support me in this project.   

3. The importance of a good research question


blog 4

After a preliminary scope of the available occupational therapy research, it became clear to me that in order to get the most out of this project, I would need to refine my research question. I then used the PICO framework, which includes elements such as: (Population, Intervention Comparison and Outcome) to guide my thinking and my subsequent searches. We are still in the process of finalizing our research question so stay up to date on this project to see the results.

4. Share the learning

At the end of the summer, I am hoping to have completed my literature search and be able to present my findings in an infographic and conference poster. Sharing the knowledge and literature with our carers group (@NDCAN_Scotland) and the public of how occupational therapists CAN support families and carers in their roles, substantiated by research, is the ultimate goal of this project. A preliminary diagram representing key information I have found thus far is included below:

blog 5blog 6

Additionally, I also hope to be able to provide essential references and bibliographies to build upon the work of previous interns in their contributions to the AHP MSc module on rights based practice and dementia. If AHPs are interested in finding out more about this module they can contact Fiona (@MacleanFiona) or Elaine (@elaineahpmh).

Reflection questions

As health care professionals, how do you incorporate research and evidence into your practice?

As occupational therapists and allied health professionals, how are you currently supporting families and partners of people living with dementia?

As families, what would you like from occupational therapists and allied health professionals to help you in your role as a family carer?

Keep connected

As always, the team will also be using #OTInterns17 and #AHP Volunteer17 on twitter throughout the summer to share our work.

You can find updates for this project @b_crocks

As well as the rest of the teams work:

Emily : @mcnemilyjane

Nicole : @nicolekane_ot

Lynsey : @lrflanniganot

Instagram @ahpdementia

Facebook AHP Dementia

blog 7

Introducing our Events Management graduate AHP volunteer: A creative collaboration

Last week’s blog post marked the beginning of the Occupation Therapy internship 8 week takeover, during which we will be updating our progress on various projects we are collaborating on with the Scottish Dementia Working Group (@S_D_W_G), National Dementia Carers Action Network (@NDCAN_Scotland) and Alzheimer Scotland (@alzscot). Last week also marked the graduation of Occupational Therapy intern Nicole (on the right) and I (on the left) graduating from Queen Margaret University in two very different degrees, Occupational Therapy and Events Management. This week I will be introducing some of these projects that I am involved in to you and how I aim to bring my Events Management degree to our team of Occupational Therapists this summer!

Throughout my degree, I held a particular interest in social sustainability which would eventually bring me to Alzheimer Scotland as their first ever AHP volunteer, a position I am very proud of. Not only is it exciting to be part of a team with a diverse range of skills and knowledge from different fields, but even more so to bring this together in a series of projects we are running this summer.

Challenging stigma through occupation
The projects I am contributing towards have been adapted from last year’s fantastic group of interns’ work of PhotoVoice Project. This project is centred on Alzheimer Scotland’s Building Bridges Project and 3 out of 5 Strategic Objectives of the Scottish Dementia Working Group (SDWG):

  • Challenging the stigma and image of dementia;
  • Developing a strong, collective voice of diverse people with dementia across Scotland;
  • Use and explore new technology to support the SDWG’s work.

This year, our team is developing this project further, and we are so fortunate to be receiving so much enthusiasm from SDWG for participation in our hopes of collecting more photographs and narratives from people across all of Scotland living with dementia. These photographs and narratives, together becoming PhotoVoice, is where the knowledge and skills I developed at university will be utilised and built upon in the coming months.

AHP Volunteer Emily and OT Intern Nicole Meet with SDWG 2017

As you may guess, being an Events Management graduate, an event is one such project! With the SDWG’s and our hopes of challenging the image and stigma of dementia through occupation, I will be organising in partnership with Elaine @elaineahpmh & Fiona @MacleanFiona ideas on how to share and showcase the photographs and narratives of the PhotoVoice project as well as celebrating 5 years of Occupational Therapy internships at @alzscot and their collaboration with the SDWG. Our hopes are to give voice to people living with dementia all across Scotland, focusing on what is meaningful to them.

Sharing the narratives
One exciting outcome from all the work, we are looking to develop an ebook of the PhotoVoice project. Having learned how to use software such as Adobe Photoshop and InDesign, I wanted to approach the SDWG’s strategic goal of using and exploring new technology in a way that supports both the SDWG, but also allows the team of interns and I to learn how to use a relatively new piece of technology.

In the coming weeks, therefore, I will be exploring and using ebook technology BookWright, developed by Blurb, with Adobe InDesign, to learn how to create, edit, and publish what we hope to be an inspirational and informative ebook of members of the SDWG photographs and narratives to challenge the image and stigma of dementia.

Although this ebook will be available online to download, I will also be using skills I have learned through my own initiative to develop a website page where the Photovoice content will be available to view. Alongside this, we will be launching a social media campaign to challenge to stigma and the image of dementia through occupation using content from the PhotoVoice project.

Sharing our work on social media
In recent weeks, we have created a Facebook page for Allied Health Professionals which will be connected to our existing Instagram profile, the links for which can be found at the end of this post. With a new strategy designed to make the most out of these online platforms, I hope to bring some background in marketing from my degree to the team when creating content for these platforms.

Over the next 8 weeks, expect to see Instagram posts following daily themes. On Mondays, we will be covering some top tips to living well with dementia, Tuesdays will focus on wellbeing, on Wednesdays we will be promoting this blog, Thursdays will be a “did you know…”, and Friday will be a reflection for the week.

With our Facebook page, we will also be able to respond to comments and queries easier, and hopefully gather some new interest from people who may not use Twitter. This is just some of what you can expect to see developing over the next 8 weeks and onwards later in the year!

Keep connected
To keep up to date with what the Occupational Therapist interns and I are doing over these weeks on these exciting projects, subscribe to this blog and check out our Twitter feeds; our usernames can be found at the end of this post. We will also be using #OTInterns17 and #AHPVolunteer17, so please search for us and get in touch!
Author of this week’s blog is Emily at @mcnemilyjane

The rest of the team:
Beth : @b_crocks
Nicole : @nicolekane_ot
Lynsey : @lrflanniganot

Instagram @ahpdementia
Facebook AHP Dementia


5 years of Occupational Therapy Interns – Blog Takeover

This summer marks the 5th year of the Alzheimer Scotland and Queen Margaret University occupational therapy internship partnership, supported by Santander Universities UK. The 5 years has allowed the extension of the partnership to the Scottish Dementia Working Group, made up of those living with dementia. Their perspective has been invaluable in the education of the interns and informing the courses at Queen Margaret University. We are delighted this year to be joined by an events management graduate from Queen Margaret University as the first allied health professional (AHP) volunteer.

Past occupational therapy interns have completed many exceptional projects with the help of the Scottish Dementia Working group and we aim to share the contribution that AHP volunteers and occupational therapy interns can make to Alzheimer Scotland over the summer of 2017. We will share details of our projects that are centered on raising awareness of the differences AHPs and occupational therapists CAN make in dementia services and will be working closely with the Scottish Dementia Working group to challenge the stigma and change the image of dementia.

Internships provide flexible and educational opportunities which aim to allow the intern to explore emerging perspectives within their field of choice or expertise. Internships within Alzheimer Scotland can support the aspiration of having a skilled workforce for dementia care. The partnership between Alzheimer Scotland, the leading dementia organisation, and Queen Margaret University not only supports the education of the interns but also allows for a more informed curriculum.

Meet the Team: Occupational therapy interns and AHP volunteer for 2017

Nicole Kane – Occupational Therapy Graduate

I am 21 years old and I will be graduating from Queen Margaret University this summer! In my final year at university I completed an 8 week occupational therapy practice placement with Alzheimer Scotland in Lanarkshire. I loved the positivity of the organisation and the enabling approach of the employees. I was delighted to be accepted as one of this year’s occupational therapy interns and look forward to working with Alzheimer Scotland and the Scottish Dementia Working Group to challenge the stigma around dementia. You can follow my work on twitter with the handle @NicoleKane_OT or with the hashtag #OTIntern2017.



Lynsey Robertson-Flannigan – Occupational Therapy Assistant

My name is Lynsey Robertson-Flannigan and I am currently completing my second Santander Universities sponsored Occupational Therapy Internship with Alzheimer Scotland and Queen Margaret University, having been a full time intern in the summer of 2015 between the third and fourth years of my undergraduate degree. This time around I am job sharing with my fellow intern, Beth, and spending the rest of my working week as a hospital based Occupational Therapy Assistant. I graduated from Queen Margaret University with a BSc (Hons) in Occupational Therapy in July 2016 before having a few months off with my new baby. As a graduate working as an OTA I am viewing my internship through a different lens than I was in 2015, but with equal amounts of passion and enthusiasm for reducing stigma and helping to spread the word of what Allied Health Professionals can do to help people to live well with dementia. Follow my work on twitter @LRFlanniganOT!

Emily Duffy- Events Management Graduate

Hello! My name is Emily Duffy and for this summer I am an AHP volunteer with Alzheimer Scotland. I will be graduating with a first class BA (Hons) in Events Management from Queen Margaret University and hope to develop and bring some different skills and knowledge to the internship team on an exciting project we are working on. I am also a House Team Leader at Edinburgh University’s Students Association and hope to begin a career in the third sector, being passionate about social sustainability. Although I am not from an Occupational Therapy background, I feel strongly towards challenging the stigma of dementia and raising awareness of the valuable work of Allied Health Professionals across Scotland. Find me on twitter under the username @McNEmilyJane.

Elizabeth Crockett- Occupational Therapy Student

IMG_1455.JPGHello! My name is Elizabeth (Beth) Crockett and I am international student currently completing my Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy at Queen Margaret University. Previously, I have completed a BSc in Kinesiology (Honours) from the University of Alberta, Canada. This summer, I am delighted to be undertaking a joint internship with Queen Margaret University and Alzheimer Scotland, sponsored by Santander Universities. Additionally, I am lucky to have the opportunity to share the position and draw on the experience of a previous year’s intern, Lydnsey. I am originally from Canada but I have always had a keen interest in studying and traveling abroad, so it seemed logical to extend that pattern and pursue my Master’s degree in Edinburgh, a city that had always enticed me. As a prospective Allied Health Professional, this internship will provide me with a platform to enhance the visibility and value of occupational therapy within dementia care, with the ultimate goal of improving practice. Finally, throughout the internship I hope to reduce the stigma associated with dementia and show that people CAN still live meaningful lives. Follow my work on Twitter @b_crocks.

Over the next 8 weeks we will be sharing our work on social media through this blog, on Instragram AHPDementia, on Facebook and using the #OTIntern17 & #AHPVolunteer17. Follow our work, comment on our posts and let’s keep talking about dementia. Thank you.

AHP Volunteer Emily and OT Intern Nicole Meet with SDWG 2017


Pocket Ideas to support intergenerational learning with senior students at Kilwinning Academy

It’s really exciting how new opportunities develop and a new journey begins. During my project role with Pocket Ideas I arranged to meet with Tim Swan (Head Teacher, Kilwinning Academy), having briefly spoken with him at the end of a parent council meeting one evening. Before we met, Tim had had the opportunity to look at the Pocket Ideas booklet, and think about how this resource could be used in the academy. When we eventually met for a chat, not only did Tim think that Pocket Ideas was a great idea, but it gave him some thoughts about developing their own pocket tools for subjects in school e.g. pocket maths. I hope that still happens, as that’s also another fabulous idea!

In the time that I have known Tim, I have come to realise that he is innovative and proactive, and he embraced Pocket Ideas with enthusiasm. It was suggested that Pocket Ideas could be incorporated into the training and development for S5 and S6 students working towards their Saltire award. This is an award gained from being a volunteer, and experience that supports further education and applications for employment. Often student volunteers are given the opportunity to visit care homes and sheltered housing complexes to meet older people and be in a befriending type role. We both agreed that Pocket Ideas could help to build therapeutic relationships, and help bridge the gap between a younger and older population. For me this really reinforced the importance of intergenerational learning, especially when a younger generation can learn from a much older population, and vice versa.

Having shared the Pocket Ideas journey with Tim, the meeting ended with 2 questions for me; can we get more of the books? and can you provide training? Of course I said yes to both, but at that point, I had no idea what my training would look like, especially as I’ve spent most of my career working with an older population, so a whole new learning curve for me. From that moment I drafted a training plan, agreed this with Tim, and then I was introduced to one of his colleagues, Aileen Forsyth (Support teacher). Together we reviewed the training plan and discussed ideas to recruit students. The first session took place at the academy on 28/10/16. I was extremely nervous that day as I wanted to make a good impression, and I wanted the students to like Pocket Ideas, and to see themselves using the resource as volunteers. The challenge had been set and as always I took the swan approach, (no pun intended Tim), mainly to appear calm and confident on the surface, but flapping underneath. A deep breath an off I went!

The first training session was attended by 12 students in S6 who quietly observed while I organised the flip chart and arranged information with the support of my third year student Occupational Therapist (Nicole Tulloch). Whenever I plan training sessions I like to encourage interactive discussions, and although I expected this might be difficult to achieve with a group of teenagers, they did not disappoint me, and they leapt to the challenge and shared their thoughts and feelings! (Thank you to all who attended and who were kind to me at my first session).

The session was initiated by asking all the students; what is the first thing you do when you meet your friends on the way to or at school? No trick questions, I just wanted the students to think about the meaningful connections they take for granted everyday; a smile, a hug and knowing that someone will ask how you are. I then asked students to think of 5 different ways they communicated every day, and examples included; facebook, twitter, e-mail, texting and face to face contact. Everyone agreed that there is so many ways to communicate with each other with the many Apps and multiple technologies at our finger tips. With this in mind, I then gave the students the following statement; the power had been given to me to take away all forms of communication for a moment, and all students asked how that would feel? A short silence followed and then a range of powerful emotions filled the room to include; feeling isolated, lonely, worried, helpless, lost, frightened, anxious, and bored. Prior to the training I had practiced this exercise on myself, and I honestly felt terrified that I had no way of contacting anyone, and how alone that made me feel. After sharing these feelings I gave the virtual communication back, but used those feelings to highlight that for some of our older population, this could relate to how life feels every day, and the impact this can have on quality of life due to social isolation.

I then invited students to think about what we could do as a younger population to make more positive connections with our growing older population, which reinforced the benefits of intergenerational learning. This was an apt moment to introduce Pocket Ideas and give the students an opportunity to try out the project in their groups or in pairs. Thumbs up were given all round amongst a few giggles, and the feedback highlighted that they had particularly enjoyed the games, Scottish words and quizzes. As part of the training I decided to give the students 5 minutes to use the project each, to illustrate that 5 minutes can have a huge impact when talking with an older person. However, the feedback highlighted that more time to use the project would have been helpful, and so this was incorporated into the next training session, so that honest feedback does make a difference.

In terms of living well in later years, I did remind all students that many older people enjoyed a good quality of life, and continued to engage in many of the activities they had enjoyed in their youth. With a view to considering health and wellbeing, I reinforced the responsibility we all have to look after our health, so that we can continue to enjoy a good quality of life, taking a preventative approach to illnesses and to make positive lifestyle choices.

The session was completed with a short film, showing a model of care in America where a care home and children’s nursery work together every day. The film clip can be found at

The film illustrates how the young children accept the older people as being part of their every day routine, and the older people take part in the learning and daily activities with the children. There is real compassion shown between both generations making meaningful connections and having positive moments in time. The feeling in the room highlighted to me that these simple connections really make a difference.

Measuring impact

To evaluate the session 3 questions were asked;

  • What have you learned from attending the training today?
  • Would you consider becoming a Champion for Pocket Ideas?
  • Will you help with feedback and share how you have used Pocket Ideas?

The students gave an overwhelming ‘yes’ to the last 2 questions, but it was the first question which revealed a very positive response to the training, and some examples of the feedback included; “I have learned today that talking to people of an older or younger age of myself is not so difficult, and that there are many ways to start a conversation”, “I have learned that older people may feel isolated without other people taking notice”, “I have learned the importance of communication between older and younger generations, and also how to communicate better and start conversations”, “The power of communication and what it means for an older person who can’t do it as easily as us”, and “I have learned the importance of communicating with an older generation and the benefits of talking to new people”.

Finally I asked the students to write down one word to sum up the training and responses included; inspiring, great, helpful, enlightening, interesting, fun, beneficial and reassuring. Another session was completed on 3/2/17 with S5 and S6 students, and the feedback remained positive and with enthusiasm to continue further training.

We’re now at the stage of planning and organising an event, so that students can have those real time conversations using Pocket Ideas with an older population. It’s a great opportunity to celebrate intergenerational learning and focus on bridging the gap between younger and older generations. So I think a high tea maybe on the agenda, which sounds absolutely fabulous!

Hopefully this is just the start of many conversations, sharing stories and experiences, and learning from each other. Also lets remember the importance of reducing social isolation, improving quality of life and supporting person centred care for our growing older population.

I must say a very big thank you to Tim Swan, Aileen Forsyth and to all the staff who have supported an idea, and to all the students who participated in the training and helped the use of Pocket Ideas to become a reality at Kilwinning Academy. Aileen is due to retire this summer, and so Annette McBreen (Support teacher) will be continuing in her place. Wishing you a very happy retirement Aileen!

I would like to give a final thought using an inspirational quote, which really sums up this exciting journey for me, and that is;

“So often you find that the students you’re trying to inspire are the ones that end up inspiring you”. Sean Junkins

By Andrea Boyd