Dementia Friends Scotland

Learn a little bit about what it’s like to live with

 Dementia and turn that understanding into action.

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I’m often asked, “What is a Dementia Friend?” “Do I have to visit people at home?” “What am I expected to do?”  The key thing to know is you don’t have to know someone with Dementia to become a Dementia Friend.  Dementia Friends is part of a social action movement to increase awareness of Dementia and address the stigma experienced by many people living with the illness.

With the right support and understanding, people can live well with Dementia and still be active and contribute to their local community.  Only by raising the level of awareness and understanding can we make a positive difference.

We aim to deliver information through the 5 Key Messages of the Dementia Friends Initiative.

  • Dementia is not a natural part of ageing
  • Dementia is caused by brain diseases of the brain
  • Dementia is not just about losing your memory
  • It is possible to live well with Dementia
  • There is more to the person than the Dementia

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Q. How do you become a Dementia Friend?

A. Easy. Visit the website ( and spend 10 minutes watching a few short films. Or, if you can spare 1 hour of your day, you could attend one of our interactive information sessions and join the 7500 people who have already signed up to become Dementia Friends in Scotland.

Q. How do I attend an Information Session?

A. There are sessions all over the country in an attempt to make them as accessible as possible. For your local session, just visit the website:

Q. When and how do I get my badge?

A. If you have completed the registration process online, you will receive a badge and your 5 key messages card through the post. Alternatively, if you attend an information session, you will receive you badge and card at the end of the session.

Q. Do I have to visit people at home?

A. No. This is not a befriending service. There is no expectation to visit people living with Dementia.  This is solely about raising awareness and reducing stereotypes and stigma.

Q. What am I expected to do as a Dementia Friend?

A. As much or as little as you want. All we ask is that you answer a “call to action”. This could be something as small as wearing your badge with pride, to helping out at a fund raising event.  There is no obligation for you to do anything; but we hope that by choosing to become a Dementia Friend, you have chosen to engage and feel as passionately as we do about improving the lives of people with Dementia.  Any contribution you make, big or small helps us to work towards building a Dementia Friendly Community.

“Thank you for considering becoming a Dementia Friend. It makes a big difference to people like me, all over Scotland, that people like you want to help us to live well in our local communities”.

(Stewart, Face of Dementia Friends Scotland).


For reflection

We would be interested to hear from you if you have become a dementia friend. What impact has it had? What have been your key messages in being a dementia friend?

We also, ever welcome any comments on this blog post.

Pic 1Anne McWhinnie, Dementia Friends Programme Manager, Alzheimer Scotland


Managing a new initiative within Alzheimer Scotland. We want to create dementia friends across Scotland. Giving people a little understanding about Dementia which will enable people living with Dementia to live within their community surrounded by understanding people

5 Environmental Hints & Tips

“If you get it right for dementia, you get it right for everyone”

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  1. Signage
  • Should be clear and concise and have good contrast between text and background
  • There should be contrast between sign and mounting surface
  • Should be fixed to the doors they refer to (not adjacent surfaces)
  • Signs should be at eye level and visible
  • Avoid the use of stylised or abstract images when implementing signage
  • Implement signs at key decision points to help with navigation / way finding
  • Signs are critical for toilets and exits
  • Always have glass doors visibly marked to avoid accidents.
  1. Orientation
  • Research has shown that people with dementia use landmarks to navigate their way around both inside and outside
  • The more attractive and interesting the landmark is, the easier it is to use (plants and pictures are good examples).
  1. Lighting
  • Entrances should be well lit and easy to access
  • Use natural light as much as possible as artificial lights can be dazzling
  • Overly bright lights and shadows should be prevented where possible
  • Use of brighter primary colours can help to lighten up dark areas.
  1. Seating
  • In large premises a seating / waiting area can be very beneficial to avoid fatigue
  • Seating should resemble traditional seats for example a ‘wooden bench’ or ‘chair’ as apposed to a ‘Z’ new style seat.
  1. Flooring / Stairs
  • Avoid highly reflective and slippery floor surfaces
  • Changes in floor finish should be flush
  • Stairs should be contrasting colour to floor in order to show the obstacle clearly
  • Avoid using mats/rugs where possible as they may pose an obstacle.

You can download this information to share with others. Let us know how, where and who you shared the 5 environmental hints and tips with.

We also have a new resource called “Building Motherwell’s Dementia Friendly Community” which you may also find interesting.

Click to access Dementia_Everyone_27s_Business.pdf

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What does it mean to be a leader in dementia care?

For me, as an Allied Health Professional (AHP), leadership means striving to make a difference in the lives of others. It means believing in yourself and those you work with, loving what you do and inspiring others with energy and enthusiasm.

Until “LETS TALK ABOUT DEMENTIA”, you have probably not heard too much about AHPs. Our endeavours and accomplishments don’t feature regularly on the national news. Yet AHPs are making a difference in the care and treatment of people with dementia every day, not just in the National Health Service but in local authorities, the voluntary sector, educational systems and governmental departments, volunteer groups, huge cities and rural communities.

When most people think of leaders, they recall great historical figures such as Florence Nightingale or Sir Winston Churchill or they think of “big names” in the news, such as Nelson Mandela, who still commands a spotlight even after his passing in 2013.

Yet there are leaders working in every organisation, at every level, large and small. Leadership is all around us every day in all facets of our lives – our families, schools, universities, communities, churches and social clubs as well as in the world of health and social care.

I am working with allied health professionals who are dementia champions, who are looking to see how we work with the link workers for post diagnostic support, who are integral to Alzheimer Scotland AHP dementia expert group, have become a “dementia friend” and are leading on small test of change within their own sphere of influence.

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The qualities that make AHPs good leaders can be effective whether one is leading a strategic multidisciplinary group, a uniprofessional team, an integrated clinical team, a group of undergraduate students or a clinical group intervention.

Definition of Leadership

Leadership is an influence relationship among leaders and followers who intend real changes and outcomes that reflect their shared purposes (Daft, 2008)

The Hallmarks of Great Leadership

Rudy Giuliani (2002), the former mayor of New York, reflected on what it takes to make a great leader. Some of his principles include:

  • develop and communicate strong beliefs
  • accept responsibility
  • surround yourself with great people
  • study, read and learn independently

Giuliani makes the key point that leadership does not just happen. It can be learned and developed through practice as well as by studying the leadership ideas and behaviour of great leaders.

The best leaders, at all levels in any organisation, are those who are genuinely interested in other people and find ways to bring out the best in them. In addition, today’s leaders value change over stability, empowerment over control, collaboration over competition, diversity over uniformity and integrity over self-interest.

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On reflection

Coaching has emerged partly to help people through the transition to a new paradigm of leadership. Coaches encourage leaders to confront their own flaws and hang ups that inhibit effective leadership, then help them develop stronger emotional and interpersonal skills.

This brings up an interesting question: how do AHPs become effective leaders? My experience is that leadership depends on self-discovery. So I ask: are you prepared to look inward, to confront your own flaws, and learn?


Daft RL 2008         The Leadership Experience

Giuliani RW 2002 Leadership Time Warner Paperbacks


Shelagh Creegan – Associate AHP Director for Mental Health and Learning Disabilities


As an occupational therapist working in the National Health Service in Scotland, Shelagh has 31 years clinical experience working with adults with severe and enduring mental health conditions.  For the past 10 years, she has been professional lead OT in the Dundee General Adult Psychiatry Service.  Shelagh also has 4 years experience in an overarching strategic AHP leadership role in NHS Tayside’s Mental Health Service.


Building Dementia Friendly Communities: “It’s just so AHP”

I wrote a blog a while ago called “Suffering from Brilliance” (2013) that described the “Aha!” moments that create excitement and energy in me.  And I have to say that the idea of developing dementia friendly communities created that same wonderfully familiar energetic feeling, a feeling that drives you forward and galvanises you into action.


Motherwell’s dementia friendly community initiative is now well known.  Our simple approach and easy to use tools and methodology have been picked up across Scotland, across the rest of the UK and even wider including Norway and other European countries. It has been an exciting time, talking about our work, sharing our experience and encouraging others to take up the concept and get out there!.

Why do I think that building dementia friendly communities is an AHP’s business?

The answer for me lies firmly in policy and strategy.  Current health and social care policy supports people to remain in their own homes for as long as possible, safely and confidently.  Health and social care integration demands new ways of working together.  We also find words like “coproduction”, “community capacity” and “assets based” approaches being used extensively as we work together in our new and existing partnerships.

Scotland’s National Dementia Strategy (2013), Alzheimer Scotlands Charter of Rights for People with Dementia and their Carers in Scotland (2009) emphasise the importance of citizenship, social inclusion and full participation in society. And this feels, for me, like a call to action.

Call to Action

It calls to the heart of what we as allied health professionals (AHP) believe in and aspire to achieve.  If we want to support people to live as well as they can with dementia, then it make sense that we need a community that understands and supports its citizens who are living with the disease to continue to enjoy access to mainstream community opportunities and for all of us, as citizen,  to be welcomed and understood.


If, as AHPs, we believe that our main function in the health and social care system is to promote health and wellbeing, to work alongside people and their communities to help them find ways to compensate for health problems, overcome obstacles and challenges to living an ordinary everyday life, recover function, find ways to adapt to change, to self-manage and feel empowered, valued and informed.  Then we must want to create communities around us that are resilient, caring supportive places for us all to live within.

Our Allied Health Professions Scotland Consensus Statement on Quality Service Values (2013) is designed to unite us as Allied Health Professionals so that we can contribute to integrated service delivery to achieve the 2020 Vision for Healthcare in Scotland.  The service values ask us to be compassionate in our care and leadership, work in partnership and build strong networks across a wide range of sectors.  Indeed our Allied Health Professions National Delivery Plan (2012) encourages us to create added value beyond health and deliver excellent outcomes for people who use services, their families and carers.  Specifically Action 3.2 asks us to enhance community capacity building and use assets based approaches and work in new partnerships.

“It’s just so AHP”

As an AHP I have a focus on rehabilitative and recovery based approaches.  AHPs have always supported people to achieve their goals through the development of coping strategies and compensatory techniques, identifying and building on capacity, strengths and asset and this approach underpinned our development work in a dementia friendly Motherwell.


I think being a part of building dementia friendly communities breathes life into our health and social care strategies and policies, makes them an “on the ground” reality and what AHP doesn’t want to just get out there and do something that builds on strength and capacity, that demands innovative, creative and energetic input, that supports us to work with people and communities in what matters to them.  It is what makes us tick; it describes what an AHP is and does.

Building Dementia Friendly Communities “It’s just so AHP”


We would welcome comments on this blog post, sharing your ideas of how you are developing dementia friendly communities?



“Suffering from Brilliance”

The Charter of Rights for People with Dementia and their Carers in Scotland   (2009)

Allied Health Professions Scotland Consensus Statement on Quality Service Values (2013)

Achieving Sustainable Quality in Scotland’s Healthcare – a 2020 Vision

AHPs as agents of change in health and social care: The National Delivery Plan for the Allied Health Professions in Scotland (2012)

What is a Dementia Friendly Community?  A dementia friendly community is made up of the whole community – shop assistants, public service workers, faith groups, businesses, police, fire and ambulance staff, bus drivers, school pupils, clubs and societies, and community leaders – people who are committed to working together and helping people with dementia to remain a part of their community and not become apart from it.  This involves learning a little about dementia and doing very simple and practical things that can make an enormous difference to people living with the condition. To find out more go to this web link


Sandra Shafii
AHP Dementia Consultant

My current role is to support the Allied Health Professions across Scotland to participate in and contribute to the implementation of Scotland’s National Dementia Strategies. I have a national remit for activity, participation and environment and had a key role in developing Make Every Moment Count. I have also been working with North Lanarkshire Dementia Demonstrator Site and am currently the NHS Lanarkshire Lead for the North Lanarkshire 8 Pillars Model Test Site.