Allan Logan: Break down barriers to help dementia sufferers

Dementia Ambassadors are now a vital part of services for older people. Picture: PA
Dementia Ambassadors are now a vital part of services for older people. Picture: PA
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OUR ambassadors are providing best service, writes Allan Logan

As part of the Scottish Government’s National Dementia Strategy, the Scottish Social Services Council – the regulator for the social care workforce in Scotland – has been promoting the development of Dementia Ambassadors in social care.

A Dementia Ambassador is a social care professional, passionate about providing the best possible service, who commits to taking on additional training so they can encourage their colleagues and their community to better understand and support people living with dementia.

CrossReach was the first organisation to appoint a Dementia Ambassador in all of our older people’s services – nearly 30 projects right across Scotland.

Our Dementia Ambassadors are now a vital part of our services for older people, and have had a huge impact on the way we work, playing a big part in one of CrossReach’s services being named Care Home of the Year recently. The Ambassadors ensure we are at the forefront of knowledge and best practice, meaning a better quality of life for the people we support. The Ambassadors are also able to support and advise people’s family and friends, as well as informing the wider community about dementia. I believe this will create a ripple effect which will result in society as a whole being more knowledgeable about dementia, and more comfortable interacting with those who are living with it.

CrossReach is the Church of Scotland’s social care charity and we have been involved in social care in Scotland for nearly 150 years. Like the Church, CrossReach is community-based. Rather than responding to one particular issue, our services have developed in response to the varied needs of the local communities we work in. We have therefore evolved into a diverse organisation, with expertise and experience in many aspects of social care provision. CrossReach supports people of all ages, in both urban and rural areas, and with a huge range of issues: from postnatal depression to homelessness; from substance misuse to learning disability.

Establishing Dementia Ambassadors in all of CrossReach’s older people’s services is a great achievement, and something we are proud of. However, we have decided to take this project even further. Dementia is usually seen as an older people’s issue, but we are becoming increasingly aware of its impact on younger people.

One of the greatest successes of modern, community-based social care is a significant increase in life expectancy for people who have learning disabilities. According to the Royal College of Nursing, average life expectancy for someone with a learning disability has increased from less than 20 years of age in the 1930s to around 66 today. This wonderful development has brought to light a challenge: research has shown that people who have learning disabilities, particularly those who have Down’s syndrome, are at greater risk of developing dementia. Recognising this issue, CrossReach’s goal is to use our expertise in the fields of learning disabilities and dementia to ensure people get the best possible support, tailored to their own circumstances and ambitions. A significant step towards this is the extension of the Dementia Ambassador role into our services for adults with learning disabilities.

The goal of social care providers has always been to break down barriers. Our aim is to create a level playing field in society; to support people to overcome the challenges they face and to participate in their communities as equals. In terms of our evidence base, innovative practice and professionalism, social care providers like CrossReach have made massive developments in recent decades which bring us closer to this goal.

With the help of our Dementia Ambassadors, we are taking a step into the future by taking down the false, age-related barrier in the field of dementia in order to offer the best possible service to the people CrossReach support.

• Allan Logan is director of services to Older People at CrossReach (The Social Care Council of the Church of Scotland),