By Henry Simmons, Chief Executive, Alzheimer Scotland
Since its formation, Alzheimer Scotland has been determined to do as much as possible to provide direct help and support for people with dementia and their families, and at the same time be a leading force for change at all levels in society.
Our Dementia Helpline, for example, has been available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year for 29 years now. Many people have used this vital support and, over the past ten years, we have been gradually using our fundraised income and donations to build on this to create strong platforms of support in localities throughout Scotland. In each of our localities, which mostly follow local authority boundaries, our goal is to provide funding for a central Dementia Resource centre, A Dementia Advisor, a Community Activity Organiser and a Volunteer Co-ordinator.
Alongside this, in some areas we are also funded by the local Integrated Joint Board to provide Post-Diagnostic Support Workers or Link Workers and registered Day Services.
In Many areas we have been able to put this full range of support in place and it is truly remarkable to see the impact that this can have. People are linking in with our Dementia Resource Centres for information and advice; they are meeting with our Dementia Advisors and getting help on all aspects of dementia, from getting a diagnosis to choosing a care home. For many, the range of community activities that are on offer is helping them maintain contact, connections and friendships, and to avoid the isolation and loneliness that is too often a common feature for people living with dementia. Carers are also developing peer support networks and using these resources to keep connected and to feel better supported. Many volunteers are stepping up and manning our Resource Centres; helping out at groups or in our Day Services; and many others are providing direct support and connections to people in their own home and care homes. It is so important to let people know that we are there for them throughout their whole journey living with dementia and we are committed to making this a reality. The massive number of people who have signed up to be Dementia Friends, over 60,000, in itself tells a story that our communities in Scotland want to do their part to help.
The diagram above shows you how we aim to be there for people with dementia and their families, and we are making great progress towards this. All of the 32 local areas have a Dementia Advisor in place, in recent years we have opened up 16 new Dementia Resource Centres, we now have 29 Community Activity Organisers and 10 Volunteer Co-oridinators.
At present we are also commissioned to provide Post-Diagnostic Support Link Workers in 22 areas and we have registered Day Services in all but 15 areas. Although not funded by us, this support is a key element to the local infrastructure and a core part of delivering the National Dementia Strategies. For us, the opportunity to provide highly skilled therapeutic work at the point of diagnosis, and in the later stages, is essential in delivering our aim of supporting people from the beginning to the end of their time living with dementia.
At the heart of our localities are people with dementia and their families, our members and activists. We have been developing a strong collective voice with these groups in order to push for local action on the National Dementia Strategy. The investments we are able to make fill a vital gap, but we must continue to ensure that the right funding and support is being directed towards all aspects of dementia care in our health and social care services.
We need at least £100,000 in each of the 32 local areas to sustain or create this platform of support, this is the main role of our Community and Events Fundraising Team and local staff. They have been doing very well; coming from having no Dementia Advisors in 2009 and no Dementia Resources Centres we have made some remarkable progress and we are indebted to all who have helped us so far.
Our aspirations and plans are quite clear, but there is much work still to be done. We truly believe that these types of support and this local platform will help many people avoid being on their own, isolated and disconnected. It is the basis from which people can live well with dementia and continue to live within their community for as long as possible.