A team of health academics from Queen Margaret University and dementia experts from Alzheimer Scotland will run a dementia study day for over 200 occupational therapy students at the University on Tuesday, October 8.
The training event, which is the first of its kind in Scotland, aims to improve understanding of the illness amongst future allied health professionals and better support people with dementia. It will also help allied health students connect their professional practice with Scottish Government policy.
Dementia is a word used to describe a group of symptoms including memory loss, confusion, mood changes and difficulty with day-to-day tasks. There are many types of dementia, with Alzheimer’s being the most common. Currently 800,000 people in the UK have dementia and that figure is set to rise to over a million by 2021. Last year, the financial cost of dementia to the UK was more than £23 billion. That cost is set to spiral as the number of people living with the disease, and others affected by their illness, continues to grow.
Fiona Maclean, Senior Lecturer in Occupational Therapy at Queen Margaret University said: “In Scotland alone about 86,000 people have dementia and that number doesn’t include the wider circle of people who are affected by a family member or friend with the condition. It is a growing problem and one that presents massive challenges for our health and social care services, as well as our economy.”
She continued: “All occupational therapists in employment will be faced, at some point, with the challenges of working with people with dementia, as well as their families and carers. This study day aims to support students in their awareness of dementia in order to enhance their practice skills when working with all people impacted by this condition.
“In order to work effectively as an occupational therapist, professionals need to understand and respect the importance of the individual’s personal circumstances. Our study day will emphasise to students the importance of living well with dementia. By increasing their knowledge and awareness, we will equip our graduates to work much more effectively in the changing landscape of health and social care in Scotland.”
The training event was devised by Elaine Hunter, the National Allied Health Professionals Consultant within Alzheimer Scotland and Fiona Maclean, Senior Lecturer in Occupational Therapy at Queen Margaret University.
Elaine Hunter, National Allied Health Professionals (AHP) Consultant, said, “This has been an inspirational piece of partnership working between Alzheimer Scotland and Queen Margaret University to improve dementia knowledge among occupational therapy students. Scotland’s current National Dementia Strategy outlines a key role for AHPs to support active non-pharmacological interventions for people with dementia, carers and families.”
An important part of the event will be the Alzheimer Scotland Memory Bus which will be located in University Square. The Memory Bus is a unique mobile information vehicle which travels across the country to raise awareness and support for those interested in, or affected by, dementia. It will be accessible to all QMU students and staff, and will also be open to members of the public on Tuesday, October 8, 9am to 2.30pm.
Henry Simmons, Chief Executive of Alzheimer Scotland, will open the event. He explained: “Dementia is one of the biggest health issues to affect our society and there are few families in Scotland who are not affected by this illness. We must develop better ways of treating, supporting and caring for people with dementia to enable them to live better in their own homes and communities. This collaboration offers a positive and innovative way of educating future health professionals about dementia, so they can make a truly meaningful contribution to patient care both in the NHS and the independent healthcare sector.”
The dementia study day at QMU has developed directly from research carried out by a QMU graduate on a Santander Internship programme with Alzheimer Scotland.
Professor Alan Gilloran, Deputy Principal of Queen Margaret University, said: “Not only does this event confirm the relevance of QMU’s work to the issues which affect society, it is a perfect example of how QMU connects education, research and policy. Ultimately, we hope this event will significantly improve our students’ understanding of dementia so that they can contribute to a better all-round service provision and improve the quality of life for those affected by the condition.”