Blog: Dementia...everyone can make a difference!
As CIH Scotland, in association with Arneil Johnston, embarks on the latest phase of its dementia programme, project manager Lyn Jardine shares some of her reflections on dementia care in Scotland and blogs about the key role of housing in delivering person-centred approaches for our ageing population.
When I recall my first professional experience of trying to ‘manage dementia’, over 10 years ago, I’m frankly embarrassed at my ignorance. As a housing manager in one of Scotland’s fair cities, I tried to coerce social work into taking us seriously. I worked for a mainstream RSL who had a small number of sheltered schemes. One vulnerable gent in sheltered accommodation was wandering and regularly forgetting he’d left the cooker on or cigarettes lit etc. and the team managed all the complaints, emergency calls, damage and disruption this involved. His neighbours were scared; we were anxious for everyone; but social work and his GP didn’t seem to be taking it seriously.
We spent months discussing possible solutions with staff on site, the gent and his family but, on reflection, none of us understood the disease sufficiently and we ran out of ideas. Seeking repossession was the only thing we had left……we thought…to get the ‘professionals’ to step in.
I rarely entertain shame (it’s not helpful) but given what I have learned in recent years, this recollection leaves me cold.
Roll forward a decade and I am proud to be considered one of a growing number of housing professionals with a passion for demonstrating housing’s role in delivering person centered approaches for our ageing population. I currently work within a health and social care partnership; have managed integrated services; intermediate care; and project managed a new build extra care housing scheme designed specifically to help people living with dementia. I now know that, given the right set of circumstances, environment, care and support, people can live well with dementia as part of their community.
I’ve been extremely fortunate not yet to have been touched personally by the disease but I know plenty of friends and colleagues who have. Dementia is not just an issue for older people and it’s growing in prominence as something that public and private services need to be engaged in and understand. There will be few, if any, housing providers whose service user profile is not ageing. Our workforce is also ageing and continued pressures on the public sector (including health and social care) means that we all have to work smarter to make scarce resources meet diverse needs. I’m a firm believer that a sea change is needed in how we configure both products and services so that we are able to ensure sustainability of communities and organisations.
So, with that particular soap box close to hand, I was delighted to be asked to get involved in the latest phase of CIH Scotland’s dementia programme. As a member, and previous employee of the Institute, I’m also an advocate for the role of housing professionals in working collaboratively with health and social care partners.
The brief is – ahem – ‘simples’. Joking aside, the brief seriously seeks to shift the agenda on and ensure that where someone with dementia lives, and how well supported they are to live there, is as important as the medical and care models that have been significantly progressed in recent years. That means delivering an evidence based resource that both demonstrates the value of housing’s role and also provides housing professionals with tools to assist them in improving practice and navigating local networks.
Housing consultancy Arneil Johnston has been appointed to carry out the work and I’m delighted to say they have had exactly the right skills, experience and connections to get the project off to a flying start. In a short space of time, even during the school holidays, we have already gathered extensive evidence and practice examples from both desktop research and engagement sessions held with small groups of practitioners across the country. There is a momentum behind us now and everyone who has been involved so far has been impressed by the vision and potential of what we are doing.
The work is so important and fascinating that we aren’t simply going to wait until the end of the project to release resources. As project manager, and on behalf of CIH, I’m keen to expand the audience for the work, both to disseminate outcomes achieved so far, and to increase opportunities for people to evidence what they are doing and contribute to future discussion.
You can follow this work on twitter #cihsdementia and if you would like to know more or join our contact list, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or Marian Reid, Deputy Director CIH Scotland at email@example.com. We would be happy to discuss the project in more detail or hear what is happening in your locality or organisation.