For Day 8 of our series of ‘walk in my shoes’ blogposts, looking at dementia from different perspectives, I am delighted to introduce the perspective of a dedicated social worker. “Ermintrude2” is well known to the Twitter world and a much respected social media contributor working to give people a voice and particularly championing the cause of the most vulnerable…
I’m a social worker in a mental health team with a specialist function in working with age related mental health needs. A large proportion of the people that I work with and alongside have dementias. So what do I do on a ‘typical’ day? My usual answer is to say that I don’t have a typical day but that doesn’t help those who are curious!
I see my role as straddling the sometimes uncomfortable gap between health and social care as the team I work in is ‘integrated’ with CPNs, Social Workers, Occupational Therapists, Clinical Psychologists and Psychiatrists. While a part of my role involves monitoring mental wellbeing, a significant part would be supporting social care support plans and implementing and advising around care needs.
The processes involved in finding the way through health and social care for someone with a dementia can be challenging and confusing. Indeed, it can be challenging and confusing for anyone, including someone like me who has worked in this area for a number of years. I see my role helping to navigate through some of these processes and particularly the necessity to advocate for those who may not have the means, capacity or networks to speak up for themselves.
My role treads the line between risk and independence at times and sometimes I am responsible for making decisions as to the ‘best interests’ of those who might use the services I provide if they do lack the capacity to make these decisions themselves. I try to balance information sources to make these decisions.
I also see a key role in providing support and information for carers who can often be isolated by a lack of information and involvement in some of the needs of their loved ones.
Sometimes, particularly in days where funding is stretched and eligibility criteria for services are being raised, I feel frustrated by some of the policy pronouncements that come down from ‘on high’ from people who don’t come into the homes as I do and see what and how people who have higher needs need.
We sometimes lose the voices of the users in the process and that’s my worry about the way that some of the person-centred planning has been rolled out – because sometimes, just sometimes the needs of the carer and the user are not the same.
I undertake safeguarding investigations. Perhaps that colours my vision somewhat but I see what the stress of care and the pain of change can create. I see people needing to move into inadequate residential care. I see the needs but haven’t the means to provide the support that I’d like to.
So what can I do? I can listen, I can learn from everyone I meet and I can continue to advocate for those who don’t have the louder voices or the involved family members. They need support too and they do not need services which ignore the voices that they cannot hear.
I love my job. It is a privilege to walk alongside the people I meet on a day to day basis. When we stop being frightened of dementia, maybe we will be better prepared to understand it and those who have different needs. The voices need to be heard.