Together, the Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership and Alzheimer Scotland, help care for and support people living with dementia and their loved ones to have more good days. 

Willy lives in Edinburgh, and in 2021, was diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease. As a retired professional, he now focuses his time on painting, drawing, and campaigning for issues he is passionate about. We have many Occupational Therapists supporting the people of Edinburgh who specialise in a variety of services and, here, Willy shares his experience of working in partnership with Jennifer, an Occupational Therapist. Jennifer specialises in Older People’s mental health and introduced him to Occupational Therapy Home Based Memory Rehabilitation*.  This is a rehabilitation intervention which introduces cognitive strategies that support him to maintain his skills and independence as he navigates his way through the changes he is experiencing and adjustments needed to cope with his condition. 

Willy story

Willy said:

“I’ve a form of Alzheimer’s disease which affects my eyesight and organisational skills. Not so much my memory, just aspects of my memory so for example I have trouble remembering names of new places but not so much what happened last week. 

“I was contacted by health and social care about memory rehabilitation and I confess, I wondered ‘what are they on about because my memory isn’t really affected’. It didn’t make sense to me. But then Jenny said it was more about getting your house in order and that began to make more sense. 

“It’s not been easy realising I need help. Some areas where I’ve struggled, I’ve been dimly aware of for some time. Then there are some problems that take me completely by surprise. An example would be when I discovered I have a problem seeing dark colours. 

“My suitcase is dark and it turns out that when I went away I couldn’t see the zip on it, and I forgot how to actually open the case. It was an extraordinary situation. Since then, understanding the strategies I’ve been learning, my solution has now been to tie a bright ribbon to the zip and I can then see it. 

“Working with Jennifer, I’ve learnt how to think through what my problems are and together we are finding strategies that work for me as an individual. My Alzheimer’s is different from other peoples, and my solutions are different from other peoples. Everyone is different. 

“In truth, I’ve not always followed the letter to the law - some strategies have worked for me and some not as much, but overall it’s about making them relevant – applying them to my personal situation and my everyday life. Looking at the most important things for me. 

Willy Gilder artwork
‘An Urban Sketcher in his natural habitat’ by Willy Gilder, May 2022


Willy's story

“I now keep a record each day and this isn’t something historically I have done. But I have started to realise this really is important, and if I don’t note down where I’ve been and what I’ve been up to, I do start to lose track. I also organise my art materials with labels and put things away in the right slots. I know it sounds silly as a grown man, but it really has helped. 

“I have had to come to terms with the fact that some part of me have changed. I’m learning to be honest about these and the things I am having difficulties with. There are always going to be aspects of this disease that are very hard for other people to understand. I mean, how do you begin to explain you can’t operate a suitcase. But I have found a need to explain things to people and working with Jennifer it’s also about accepting help. 

“There have times I’ve not been sure about it, but I have learnt to accept that some things being put forward are a good idea and I’ve been open to putting my own spin on the strategies to make them work for me. Overall, I can simply say that this support has changed my life.”

You can access the audio conversation between Willy and Jennifer above. Thank you to Willy for sharing his expertise and experiences.

*Occupational Therapy Home Based Memory Rehabilitation is an individualised post diagnostic intervention which is being implemented in health board areas across Scotland and supported by Alzheimer Scotland and the Scottish Government, to deliver the national AHP policy, Connecting People, Connecting Support.  If you would like to find out more about this or have any questions about Allied Health Professionals in Scotland, email [email protected].