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Making dementia everyone’s business

14 November, 2017

Author: Caroline Handley, Diagnostic Radiographer, NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde

Caroline Handley
Caroline Handley

I’ve had a keen interest in improving the care of people living with dementia who visit our imaging departments since my grandfather was diagnosed over 20 years ago.

At this time, little was known of the disease in comparison with today and as a consequence patient centred care was not the norm.

Today one million people in the UK will have a diagnosis of dementia by 2025 and this will increase to two million by 2050.

Over the last three years I have been a part of an Allied Health Professions (AHP) dementia expert group. This group was charged with producing a policy document outlining the contribution and impact that AHP’s can have to the quality of life and care given to people living with dementia and their carers in Scotland.

The document titled Connecting People, Connecting Support, has now been published and can be found here, along with an overview of the journey to create the document. 

I wanted to write about the experience of being involved with this group as it has highlighted what can be gained from collaborative working.

This document was commissioned by the Scottish Government in partnership with Alzheimer’s Scotland. This meant liaising directly with patients living with dementia, hearing directly from them about what would enhance their treatment and ultimately their life.

The group also learned about the various roles of AHPs both within the acute and primary care setting and the part that we all play in the patient journey.

This was a great opportunity to raise the profile of our profession to a wider audience through social media, blogs and literature, all of which can be found on the Alzheimer’s Scotland website

As a result of this collaborative working we were able to ensure that the document could be aimed at a wide audience, from other healthcare workers to people living with dementia and their carers.

‘Connecting People, Connecting Support’ is mainly demonstrating the work of the four AHP groups, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, dieticians and podiatry, that can have the biggest impact on patient’s living with dementia.

Regardless of the stage that an individual is at on their dementia journey, input from these professions can drastically improve their outcome and ensure that care is patient centred.

The document has several key ambitions. The most pertinent for radiographers working in both therapeutic and diagnostic departments is around the standard of education that should be in place for the multidisciplinary teams working with our departments.

The aim is that all members of the healthcare team will be educated to a skilled level in dementia care.

The terminology used to describe this varies in each of the four countries, however, all have the same aim of ensuring that the framework structures for dementia education are in place.

By guaranteeing fundamental skills and advancing the leadership in this area, we can ensure that care is patient centred. Higher education institutions are integral to this training goal.

Since 2014 all Scottish universities ensure student radiographers are taught dementia care modules to the required level, equipping them with the skills to work with patients living with dementia who visit our departments.

The Society and College of Radiographers have also been instrumental in producing guidelines for radiographers caring for those living with dementia who visit our departments.

These can be found on the SoR website along with links to other key publications here

The message I would like anyone reading this article to take away is that by making ‘dementia everyone’s business’, radiographers have scope to improve the care given within our departments.

Each one of us can ensure that we complete the education required and with the help of dementia champions we can continue to look at ways in which we can ensure that the care we offered is tailored to meet our patients varied needs. 

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