Being an AHP Working with People with Dementia

“AHP: a hidden treasure” #AHPDementia
Introduction from Elaine Hunter : Recently a carer emailed me, writing “I think people with dementia and carers could benefit from the ‘AHP hidden treasures’ To share some of our ‘hidden treasure’, this months blogs are being presented to you by four of the allied health professions who have a valuable and much needed contribution to make for people with dementia, their families and carers. These first four blogs are the beginning of a much bigger #AHPDementia conversation that we hope you will join us in with the aim to go some way to inform the public of the who and the what of our roles in the area of dementia. In the new year we will follow these blogs & share with you the role of art therapy, music therapy, podiatry and radiography. We look forward to your conversation.

Being a AHP Working with People with Dementia

Lynn Flannigan Lanarkshire Care Home Liaison Physiotherapist @LFlannigan    #AHPDementia 

I am absolutely delighted to be given this opportunity to blog about 2 of my passions – being an AHP and working with people with dementia.

Many people describe dementia as being a journey. I often think of my career in working with dementia as a journey too. In order to describe where I am today, I would first like to share with you how it all started.

As a physiotherapist I always had a passion for working with older people, specialising in this area very early on in my career. This was unusual as it was still a time when few fellow junior staff wanted to be “the geriatric physio”. Around the same time my Grandmother began her journey with dementia. It was a journey for my Gran with many difficulties and for our family many challenges. I don’t really need to read the literature on caregiver stress to know that it is a reality.  Don’t get me wrong there are times that we can look back and laugh, and at the end of the day we see it as a privilege to have been able to support her through her journey.


My Gran never received a formal diagnosis, as a result of which there was no treatment or support until the last few months of her life.  We were the definition of “winging it”. My “epiphany” both personally and professionally came in the form of a CPN and Mental Health OT. At this point my Gran was completely aphasic and did not interact much with the world around her. These amazing professionals gave us information, reassurance and very simple tips to help us support and stimulate my Gran. You may have heard of the miracle of the loaves and the fishes – well we had the miracle of the scarves and the salt dough! We were shown how to use these types of modalities as sensory stimulation and meaningful activity. My Gran became much more alert and interactive and even starting saying the odd word again. As a family we were delighted and felt empowered to be able to do something useful. It showed me what professionals and families could achieve by working together. I wanted to be able to offer the same support to other people with dementia and their families.

It also began my crusade against the attitudes I would hear of, “not appropriate as cannot retain information”, “inappropriate referrals” and “there is nothing we can do”.

There is always something you can do, even if it is to provide information and reassurance that carers are doing the right thing or signpost to someone who can help. To me there are no inappropriate referrals. The fact that someone has made the referral means that someone is asking for help. My passion for dementia has increased and I am now doing my masters in dementia studies.


I now work with the care home sector where around 90% of residents have dementia. I love working with the residents and supporting their carers. Most of my interventions are focused around improving/maintaining mobility, therapeutic handling and the prevention of falls. I also provide education and support to the care home staff and have a special interest in meaningful activity (unusual for a physiotherapist I know, but now you know why!). I have had the privilege to work on many fantastic projects as part of my role including the “Make Every Moment Count”, Managing Falls and Fractures in Care Homes and Go for Gold Challenge resources. I also sit on various dementia specific groups including the Lanarkshire AHP Dementia Forum and the National AHP Dementia Expert Group. This has given me the opportunity to work closely with many of our AHP consultants. I work in a very integrated way with people with the same passion from various other organisations including Alzheimer Scotland, Local authority and the independent sector.

I am so excited about the developments in dementia care including our Dementia Strategies, Standards of Care and Promoting Excellence. I am especially excited about Scotland’s Dementia Strategy 2013-2016 commitment 4 which is around the AHP contribution to dementia care. I am privileged to be part of the writing group working on that commitment.

Slide1I am also excited in the drive for timely diagnosis and post diagnostic support – something which would have made all the difference to my Gran and my family. I am looking forward to seeing how AHPs can contribute to the 5 and 8 Pillars models of support. I think this is a very exciting time to be working with people with dementia and an opportunity for AHPs to demonstrate our unique contribution. I hope that I can continue to play my part and I hope I would have made my Gran proud.


“ENGAGING – ENABLING – EMPOWERING”   ~ Allied Health Professions in Dementia Care

National AHP Dementia Expert Group



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s