Hello and thank you for looking at our blog. We are Jenny Ackland (@JennyAckland2) and Yolanda Strachan (@Yol_AHP) – Allied Health Professions (AHP) National Consultants with Age Scotland. We are now 18 months into a two year job share post and would like to tell you a bit about our role. We would also like to talk about some of the projects that we are involved in and how these impact on older people in Scotland.
What is our role in Age Scotland?
Our role is one of a number of posts in the Third Sector funded by the Scottish Government. A key aim is to increase the awareness and understanding of Third Sector amongst AHPs (and particularly in our case, Age Scotland), and the real added value this can bring to the overall care provided for older people. Similarly we are raising awareness within the charity, and with older people, of the very beneficial role AHPs have in prevention, public health and rehabilitation. Another aspect of our post is to test out some prototypes that could potentially make a difference to the health and well being of our older people. Our own hopes and aspirations for the post are to make a real difference to the lives of older people and to support them to ‘love later life’.
We are involved in loads of good work which supports older people however, we thought for this blog we would start by telling you a little bit about three projects we are currently leading on. These are:
- Ask an AHP
- Neighbourhood AHPs
- Looking after You
Ask an AHP
This is a project we are testing out in a variety of venues across the country – shops, pharmacies, older people events etc. Our aim is to make AHPs more accessible to the public and to be available to answer questions that will give people/carers immediate support and prevent a prospective problem from occurring.
For each event we invite local AHPs to be involved, as local AHPs bring local knowledge which is of tremendous benefit. We bring leaflets about the different professions, different aspects of care, and some Age Scotland resources. Providing contact information on AHP services and Third Sector organisations available locally allows us to signpost people appropriately to the support need identified.
To date we have held around nine events and the questions we receive tend to be quite general i.e. communication issues, dementia, footcare, pain, diet, keeping active and healthy, exercise etc – although anything can be covered. Quite often people are happy just for someone to listen to their story and we will signpost elsewhere and to local AHP services if we do not have the expertise to respond.
We have been using improvement methodology in the form of Plan Do Study Act (PDSA) cycles to identify what works well and to refine the model. Our learning to date has included:
- People do not know what an AHP is and the advantages of what they can offer to older people in prevention and rehabilitation. We have changed the title and layout of our advertising poster to reflect this
- Events work well where there is a captive audience of older people such as shopmobility, pharmacies and older people events
- Having local AHP involved in the events makes a huge difference – they have local information and people trust them
- Working in partnership with other third sector organisations gives a brilliant dimension and breadth to the support we can offer
The overall aim of the Neighbourhood AHP project is to tackle isolation and loneliness, and improve the health of older people. A key purpose of the role is to advise and support older people on public health, prevention, active ageing and wellbeing.
This project has its’ origins in the Parish Nursing model – an integrative model of health prevention and minimisation of illness within the context of a community of faith. The Neighbourhood AHP would be all faiths or none and as far as we know this approach has not yet been tested outwith nursing.
From the perspective of AHPs we are looking at a preventative model of care which has AHPs as a trusted and first point of contact. The Neighbourhood AHPs would have strong links to local GP practices and to support resources in the community and voluntary sector, including faith organisations, police, fire brigade etc.
This role is aimed at retired AHPs who wish to volunteer their skills into their community or part-time AHPs who wish to add volunteering work to their personal development portfolios. Although these roles are voluntary, we would be seeking partnership with NHS Boards to, for example, assist their Neighbourhood AHPs with support via supervision and where possible access to training opportunities.
We are actively seeking volunteers for this project and please do contact us if you are interested or would just like to have a chat about what would be involved. The commitment is up to a few hours each week, but can be felxible depending on what you are able to provide. Volunteering in this capacity could complement or be in addition to your current role if you are still in employment.
Particular skills and attributes we are looking for are:
- Enthusiasm for working with older people
- An understanding of the AHP contribution to public health, prevention and keeping well.
We were asked to develop and test a participatory session on ‘active planning for healthier later life’ as part of pre- retirement training provided by Age Scotland. The training is targeted at the 50+ population in statutory, voluntary and independent sectors.
The session focuses on key aspects of keeping physically and mentally well underpinned by evidence based on exercise, sitting less, eating well and keeping socially connected. Research shows that loneliness can be as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day!
We used improvement methodology to test out and adapt this one hour session on audiences in the Glasgow and Edinburgh areas. On most occasions the session has been supported by a local instructor providing a Tai Chi taster session.
- I will sit less and move more
- I will find out what is available in my area
- I didn’t realise how much I sit every day
From an AHP perspective it is an ideal opportunity to have conversations with people who are at a transition stage in their lives where they are more open to making behavioural adjustments and changes. This is anticipatory care in action!
Thank you for reading our blog and please get in touch if you would like any more information about any of our projects. If you would like to volunteer for the Neighbourhood AHP project we would particularly like to hear from you.