A guide on the role of allied health professionals
Wife of Michael – a courageous man who showed us how to live with dementia.
As an occupational therapist, I had the privilege to work with many people whose lives had been changed irreversibly by a stroke, a head injury, a cerebral tumour, and other neurological conditions, to which allied health professionals brought their expertise and skills to support these people meet the challenges of their condition and what it brought to their lives.
In 2001, while working as an occupational therapist at a Sydney hospital, my husband was diagnosed with a younger onset dementia. A healthy, fit, intelligent man with a love for life and for his family, this was a shock – for him, for me, and for our two teenage children. During the subsequent 10 years of the progression of his condition, we learned a great deal from my husband. We learned about the enormous complexity of dementia. We came to better understand the complex changes in cognitive, perceptual and language abilities which challenge living your life with this condition. We also learned that life is different, but can continue to be enjoyable, fulfilling and rewarding – with support, informed guidance and assistance from people with understanding and expertise in the condition of dementia.
What we were not prepared for was the lack of allied health professionals available to work with the changing capacities and abilities for people with this progressive condition. Having worked in rehabilitation settings with skilled multidisciplinary teams and knowing the difference that allied health professionals could make for a person with a disability, it was alarming and bewildering that these services were not equally available for people with the disabilities which come with a dementia.
Better health for people living with dementia: a guide for health professionals, together with its companion resource for consumers, is a wonderful national initiative by Alzheimer’s Australia through their National Quality Dementia Care Initiative, together with the Agency for Clinical Innovation (NSW). Through widespread consultation with people with dementia, carers and allied health professionals, this resource provides a much needed overview for all health professionals, about the vital role of allied health with people with dementia.
Hopefully this initiative will be just the beginning of an increased capacity of allied health professionals to understand the complex and varied needs of people living with dementia and to work in partnership to provide the support to live the life they deserve to live.
The National Dementia Helpline is an Australian Government funded initiative.