After attending one of our events in Lerwick in 2012, Emily Poleson was inspired to become a Dementia Ambassador. Emily tells us about her journey, her personal development and leadership.
What inspired you to become a Dementia Ambassador?
Back in 2012, I worked as an SVQ Assessor and Internal Verifier in health and social care for the social care workforce in the Islands. After attending the event in Lerwick I was keen to become a Dementia Ambassador so I contacted the SSSC and also my line manager. I knew that my employer, Shetland College and Shetland Islands Council would support me to become a Dementia Ambassador with the SSSC.
I’ve always been very keen to learn about dementia and I had completed a Higher National Diploma (HND) in Dementia Studies with the University of Bradford in 2006 and knew that from research on dementia being ongoing it was important to keep on top of my own professional development in this area. I recognised that by becoming involved with the SSSC in a Dementia Ambassador role I would, hopefully, be exposed to learning more on dementia ongoing. And I have!
What were your first steps, and who did you work with?
I made contact with other Dementia Ambassadors in the islands and arranged to meet up. I kept in touch with SSSC’s Kerry Cannon and Anne Tavendale and together with their input organised for a video conference to take place with the Shetland Dementia Ambassadors which the SSSC hosted. As a Dementia Ambassador Team in Shetland we met in the Shetland College regularly and also took part in more video conferences with the SSSC. The SSSC organised for the Orkney Dementia Ambassadors and CrossReach Dementia Ambassador to link in with us as we all had an opportunity to learn from each other about how they were working as Dementia Ambassadors in their localities. Latterly, through restructuring within the local authority in the Shetland Islands, the Dementia Ambassador Team has changed following a recent Care Inspectorate event held in Shetland in February. Kerry Cannon delivered a presentation at this event and since then new Dementia Ambassadors have come forward within the Isles. I’ve also been invited to attend a regular Dementia Champion meeting held in Shetland where I’m also able to access NHS Education for Scotland (NES) workshops. Joining with the Champions has led to understanding their role, especially in the acute casualty and emergency area of the local hospital and also in the community nursing team on the islands. Developing links with multi-disciplinary team is very important to providing seamless care.
What was the most beneficial piece of work you have been involved in since the launch of Promoting Excellence?
I was asked to attend a training course – Palliative and End of Life Care for People with Dementia at the end of 2013 with a group of ten local authority and NHS Shetland staff who support people with dementia. The course was very beneficial, as we were together exchanging ideas, sharing practice examples and learning from each other on roles we all have within the communities we work in concerned with supporting people with dementia and their families. I have a much broader and thorough understanding of what palliative care is, and why the term is often misconstrued by the general public who imagine that if someone is described as requiring palliative care that they are near the end stages of their life, when in fact it may be several months before the end stages. Palliative care focuses on striving to deliver the best quality of care possible in order for the individual to live out the remainder of their life as much as possible to their wishes. It is about much more than what I’d previously understood the term meant, I now feel equipped to support people with dementia live in either their own home, within a very sheltered living house or care centre environment to live their life out as they and their family wishes. Meeting other professionals has also built up confidence in my role as I realise I am part of a much wider team in these remote, isolated and beautiful islands.
What would you like to do next/what are your plans for the future?
I attended the first National Dementia Ambassador Conference in Glasgow on 13 March 2015 which I thoroughly enjoyed. One of the workshops I chose to attend focused on people with learning disabilities with dementia, delivered by Sharon Ward of Ark Housing Association. Following on from the workshop I have planned to prepare a presentation to highlight to staff groups who work with people with learning disabilities in the islands, the array of information I learned about key areas such as the differences in assessing and diagnosing dementia with someone who experiences a learning disability.
I follow the Care Inspectorate’s Care News and regularly share the latest news via my own social media pages – highlighting to my friends and colleagues the Care Inspectorate’s news – this is a very easy and satisfying way of spreading information which in a small way may make a big difference for someone.