It is with great pleasure that the Dementia Carer Voices Team share a guest post from Shelagh Creegan, Associate AHP Director for Mental Health and Learning Disabilities from the Dundonald Centre, Dundee. You can follow Shelagh on Twitter at @ShelaghAHP
The story of the AHP Pledge Tree
“Thank you @ShelaghAHP for starting the living tree with pledges from Allied Health Professionals (AHPs) in NHS Tayside … it brought a smile to my heart.”
Tommy Whitelaw shared these sentiments on Twitter after he and I met for the first time on 15 October 2014 at Abertay University, Dundee.
Tommy was speaking to 1st year mental health nursing students about his experience of being a full time carer for his mum, Joan. Joan had dementia. Through telling his story from the heart, I watched Tommy lay solid foundations of compassionate care for this next generation of impressionable nursing students by requesting that they:
- Get to know the person with dementia as an individual…
- Make the effort to find out who the person really is…
Easy requests to fulfill you may think.
Yet the evidence suggests that caring for a person with dementia in a busy hospital environment, or when visiting the person at home, it can be challenging for health care professionals to get personalised care right.
Tommy’s mum was christened Joan but his Dad had always called her Jan … and that was how she was known to all who knew and loved her. So it was a giveaway as to how well a health care professional knew his mum as to whether she was referred to as “Joan” or “Jan.”
Paul Gray, Chief Executive, NHS Scotland is supportive of all NHS staff getting behind Tommy’s campaign. (tommy-on-tour-2011.blogspot.com/2014/10/paul-gray) Paul has no experience of caring for a relative. I will be honest with you … neither have I.
But Tommy’s story mirrors that of my best friend who happens to be an occupational therapist. Like me she lives in Tayside. Like Tommy, my friend gave up her career to care for her mum who also had a diagnosis of dementia.
My friend’s mum had two wishes:
- To stay at home
- To die a dignified death
My friend made sure her mum got both her wishes and … she gave her mum so much more. They went out and about every day to enjoy the weather whatever the season. Her mum never missed out on the experience of having rain splash down her face or wind blow through her hair … to make a snowball with her hands or to rub sunscreen on her face and arms.
My friend provided tailor made activities at home as well as taking her mum to activities of interest provided in the local community. Art classes (which she took up in her 8th decade of life), church, Scottish country dancing (until her knees gave up), all sorts of crafts …
And her mum always looked and smelled her best …
Friends and family came and went to keep her mum socially connected.
And when my friend’s mum had admissions to an acute hospital, my friend made a point of explaining to staff who her mum was, her likes and dislikes. She stayed to help out at meal times … to play her part alongside the ward staff in keeping her mum well fed and hydrated…
As you may guess from these stories I think carers like Tommy and my friend are, in my humble opinion, true heroes…
So when Tommy contacted me on Twitter with a request to recruit Allied Health Professionals (AHPs) in Tayside, Scotland to support his campaign … well, how could I refuse?
Growing the AHP Pledge Tree
There are excellent resources available to support AHPs, and indeed all health and social care professionals, in making a pledge to provide the best care and treatment for people with dementia in a range of homely environments.
1. NHS Dementia continuing care units
Recommended reading would comprise the reports from the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland Older and wiser (2007) and Dignity and respect: dementia continuing care visits (2014).
For occupational therapists, I would specifically draw their attention to the Tailored Activity Programme (2009), an approach proven to work by academic research.
2. NHS Acute General Hospitals
Recommended reading comprises 3 new publications for Allied Health Professionals (2014)
- Agents of change
- Living well with dementia
- Living well with community support
These three reports published by the Scottish Government and Alzheimer Scotland share examples of the innovative work that allied health professionals are undertaking to support people with dementia, their partners, carers and families.
3. Care Homes
Recommended reading would be the publication “Make Every Moment Count: A guide for everyday living” Evaluation of “Make Every Moment Count” (2014).
The resource pack “Make Every Moment Count” (MEMC) was developed by the Care Inspectorate in partnership with several other organisations across Scotland, for Care Homes for older people and the Care at Home services in Scotland.
The aim of the resource is to encourage everyone providing care to older people to integrate the “make every moment count” approach into every interaction with older people and in all aspects of their care.
The approach means valuing each person by getting to know them, helping them feel cared for, supported and safe, and recognising the importance of the small things that improve quality of life and quality of care.
4. Tommy on tour campaign
Tommy has already spoken at a Dementia Study Day for Podiatrists in Tayside on 19 November 2014. He returns to the east coast of Scotland on 4 February 2015 to share his experience as a carer with more AHPs, this time, in Dundee.
On each visit, Tommy invites the audience to pledge to #makeadifference and help grow the AHP pledge tree. This living tree symbolises enduring strength, ambition or wishes fulfilled, family, blessings of nature, good fortune, stability, shelter and security.
The final words of this blog belong to Tommy who says:
“I just love the tree … I cant stop smiling … Let’s help the AHP Pledge Tree to grow!”
References (links accessed 19.10.14)
Make Every Moment Count, http://www.scwis.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=8196&Itemid=766
Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland. http://www.mwcscot.org.uk/publications
The National Delivery Plan for the Allied Health Professions in Scotland, 2012-2015. http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2012/06/9095
Scotland’s National Dementia Strategy 2013-2016. http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Health/Services/Mental-Health/Dementia
3 new publications for AHPs in Scotland
The Tailored Activity Programme to reduce behavioural symptoms in individuals with dementia (2009 http://www.alzscot.org/news_and_community/news/3197_three_new_publications_for_allied_health_professions