1. You’ve worked in different fields before starting as Post Diagnostic Support Link Worker (Dementia) with Tagsa. What was the motivation for taking on this role?
My personal experience was a key factor in applying for the role. My father had vascular dementia and I cared for him at home. Unfortunately, there were no Dementia Link Workers at that time that could guide us on the correct path to take in caring for my father. While I studied for my SVQ in Health and Social Care I took an extra interest in dementia as I decided that that was the career path I wanted to go down. With that experience, I knew I had to apply, and I was delighted when I got the job. And I have certainly not looked back.
2. What would you be doing on a typical day?
Every day is different, I could have one or two home visits, meeting the person living with dementia, their family and carer, taking the time to have a chat and listen and find out what is important to them. Even the smallest thing we do for someone can make a big difference to their lives. I could be in the community mental health team office between visits typing up my case notes. I might be following up on referrals or speaking to GPs or other professionals. Other days, I could be calling carers, helping them arrange respite for their family member or getting them connected with other carers and any local groups that are being put on in the community. Checking and sending emails and taking calls is a daily occurrence.
3. What would you say are the highlights of your work from a personal perspective?
Knowing that I am making a difference to someone’s life and their family. Working with our multi-disciplinary team who are all so helpful and knowledgeable in their field. Being at outings with my clients and seeing them join in with either singing, dancing, art or gardening. And seeing their faces light up due to them having such a great time.
4. A diagnosis of dementia can be quite a blow for those affected. What would you say to people who find themselves this situation?
Telling them that having this diagnosis is not the end of the world, it is in fact the start of a new journey that they will be taking with the help of their family, friends and myself and that they will not face it alone. I also tell people to take their time in dealing with the diagnosis. I emphasise to them that their role in the family is still significant to their identity, i.e., mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, husband, wife. People feel sad and think that they will not be able to do anything on their own anymore and that their independence has been taken from them. I encourage people to share their diagnosis with others as this can open up new relationships and connections to people you did not realise were willing to support you. I encourage people to engage in activities that bring meaning and purpose to their life. For some, it can mean exploring skills they already possess, while others may choose to engage in new activities that bring a fresh sense of purpose to them. Connect with people who are living with the disease to learn what they are doing to remain active and engaged in life.
4. You are about to start a new project called Ri Chèile – Uibhist (In Good Company – Uibhist), could you tell us what this will involve?
We have been so lucky to receive funding for the next 3 years from The Social Isolation and Loneliness Fund. This will enable us to deliver projects to help combat loneliness in our community. I will be leading on 2 of the projects:
- Dementia friendly community training and refresher training to community members, schools and businesses from Eriskay to Berneray. This will be delivered in partnership with Alzheimer Scotland and other local organisations.
- Paths for All, Health Walks. I am a Walk Leader, and I will develop a regular programme of dementia friendly health walks in partnership with local organisations and accompanying people living with dementia in these activities.