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rachel byers, alzheimer scotland

How long have you been in post?
Two years
Tell me about your role and day to day duties and responsibilities.
The overarching aim is to ensure that anyone with dementia in Dumfries and Galloway can say that they live in a supportive and enabling community where they feel valued and understood. My role involves raising awareness, reducing stigma and increasing understanding within the community. This includes encouraging conversations, so that people have the opportunity to talk more about the illness. My remit is to reach as widely as possible across the community by organising Dementia Friend information sessions for organisations, businesses, health and social care providers, schools, faith groups and voluntary groups. People with dementia tend to withdraw from activities in their community. If more people have an understanding of the illness and know about the small things they can do to help support people living with the illness, hopefully it will help reduce social isolation and enable people to remain active for as long as possible. My role includes trying to ensure everything is as accessible as possible for people with dementia. I work alongside the Dementia Advisor and Activities Co-ordinator supporting families living with dementia.
What motivates you most about your job?
I have a real belief in the value of the role. I know how isolating the illness can be, both for the individual and their families. I recognise the importance of trying to minimise this as much as possible. Having a better understanding of the illness can really help the individual and those around them cope with the illness.
What has given you most satisfaction at work recently?
I am fortunate enough to be on a National Working group looking at how to develop the Dementia Friends Programme. Through this I have just recently started using new resources with 8-11 year olds in local primary schools. They have been well received and evaluated by pupils and staff. I am now excited about the possibility of rolling out these new sessions to other schools. For me there is something about the fact that in this corner of Scotland, local schools can feed into the wider development of this programme which can have an impact across Scotland.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
It is the extensive nature of the job. Such a range of different groups and organisations which in turn offers such potential of work to be done. The rural area brings its own challenges reaching the scattered communities. The work we do and the direction we take is informed from consultation with people living with dementia and their carers in terms of their experience in the community and what is important to them. It has not always been easy to do this as comprehensively as I would like.
What have you done previously (in terms of jobs and skills) which supports you in your current work?
I was a breast feeding support co-ordinator in Annandale and Eskdale. Although the client group was very different, the underlying ethos was the same; to enable people to do what they want to do and to support them with that process. The role also had an aspect of raising awareness in the community, so I was familiar with that type of work. Experience of organising awareness raising events, press coverage and building connections locality wide have all been very useful in supporting my current work.
How long have you been involved with SHAP?
Since 2010.
What do you consider to be the benefits of being a member of SHAP?
The network of other disciplines and the knowledge and experience they each bring. The opportunity to share information through meetings, e-mails and the Facebook page. It facilitates cross-referrals. I was familiar with the format and the members, hence when my role changed; I was already aware of contacts in the community and could make connections quickly.
How have you been involved in SHAP?
I was involved previously with the Strengthening Individual and Community Resilience Sub group.
Do you have any suggestions for ways in which SHAP can work differently?
I recognise that any group needs to change and evolve with time and SHAP is open to doing that. I believe in the value of it. The partnership brings representatives together from across the whole locality who share a common purpose.
What are your hobbies and interests outside work?
I enjoy walking my Springer Spaniel. I also like spending time cooking and baking. My younger son has just left home and I have really enjoyed teaching him some of the cookery basics. He often sends me pictures of his creations.

For more information please contact Rachel on
01387 261303 or email RByers@alzscot.org