Introduction

We know as a Dementia Ambassador you are passionate about your work and you strive to put the individuals living with dementia you support at the centre of what you do.

The information in this guide will help you and your organisation to understand what a Dementia Ambassador is, to develop your knowledge of leading dementia learning, extend your understanding of personal outcomes and support for carers as well as the benefits of developing connections.

We encourage all social service workers to start their dementia learning by watching the Informed about dementia videos.

This guide is for you if you want to become a Dementia Ambassador or if you already are one. You can use this guide to understand the contribution you make as a Dementia Ambassador as well as further your own learning about dementia, palliative and end of life care, leadership, personal outcomes and support for carers.

Please use this guide alongside the new NHS Education for Scotland (NES) Turas dementia learning site and the NES and the SSSC (PDF) resource Enriching and improving experience - Palliative and End of Life Care: A learning and development framework.

Dementia Ambassadors

Scotland responds to dementia

This section gives you background on the development of national dementia policy in Scotland and provides information on the Dementia Ambassador role.

To transform services and improve outcomes for people affected by dementia, Scotland’s first Dementia strategy was published in 2010. Following the third strategy, Scotland is currently working to deliver the Dementia and COVID-19; action plan. The Promoting Excellence learning framework was developed by NES and the SSSC to equip the workforce to deliver the commitments of the Dementia strategy. The current, third strategy continues to give a commitment to supporting the Promoting Excellence framework and to help you to develop the knowledge and skills for working with people with dementia as well as their families and carers.

The updated Promoting Excellence (2021) framework defines four levels of knowledge and skills which will help you identify learning needs and plan appropriate learning activities, these are:

  • Informed
  • Skilled
  • Enhanced
  • Expertise

To introduce the Promoting Excellence framework and the suite of dementia learning resources to social service workers we developed the Dementia Ambassador role.

What is a Dementia Ambassador?

Dementia Ambassadors work in various social and public service settings and strive to improve the lives of people with dementia and their families and carers. Ambassadors work closely with colleagues and the wider workforce to support the development of knowledge and skills, increasing awareness and promoting learning opportunities. If you’d like to find out more about the role or to be sent a Dementia Ambassador sign up form, email us at Promotingexcellence@sssc.uk.com

The Care Inspectorate report My life, my care home: The experiences of people living with dementia in care homes in Scotland, published in 2017, gave clear evidence of the positive impact that Dementia Ambassadors have on the delivery of dementia services within care homes.

"In this report we looked at the national dementia standards which include: ‘I have the right to carers who are well supported and educated about dementia.’ We found that care homes which graded better on this dementia standard had a higher number of Dementia Ambassadors compared to those that didn’t.”

Heather Edwards, Care Inspectorate

You can find good examples of how organisations have supported and used the Dementia Ambassador role and Promoting Excellence framework in the following booklets:

The impact of Promoting Excellence in social service settings - the positive role of Dementia Ambassadors.

Promoting Excellence and its impact on social service settings booklet (2017).

Click on the different subsections marked with crosses below to learn more.

As a Dementia Ambassador, it’s important you have the support of your employer, for example with protected time to use this guide to enhance your learning. You may also wish to seek dedicated time to facilitate dementia learning with your colleagues and others. If you have any questions you should discuss these with your line manager.

To become or continue as a Dementia Ambassador, it’s expected that you are working at Dementia Skilled level. This guide provides information and links to learning at the skilled level of the framework. You can click on the Dementia Skilled resource modules below to learn more or refresh your knowledge.

Guidance to accompany Dementia Skilled – Improving Practice sets out how to capture your learning from the Dementia Skilled resource to use towards an SVQ Social Services, HNC and in relation to the Standards in Social Work Education.

As a Dementia Ambassador you may support people who have palliative and end of life care needs. To help support you with the knowledge and skills for this, you may want to work through or review the Enriching and improving experience - Palliative and End of Life Care (PEOLC): A learning and development framework PDF.

The PEOLC framework has five key themes (called domains) reflecting the core knowledge and skills considered integral to the delivery of quality care. Each domain presents four levels outlining what workers need to know and do. The levels of knowledge and skills workers need may differ across the five domains depending on their degree of involvement in palliative and end of life care, and their responsibilities in caring for and supporting people, their families and carers.

There is a suite of SSSC resources to support you with wider learning and Open Badges can help you to evidence this learning.

Part of the Dementia Ambassadors’ role involves leading others in improving their practice and by supporting or facilitating their dementia learning. In social services, the main vision for leadership is set out in the Step into Leadership resource. This highlights that individuals must commit to continuously develop their own leadership skills and capability. Employers must make sure their organisations develop a supportive organisational culture where individuals can use and enhance their leadership skills.

Find out how you can motivate and inspire others and watch the What Others Say video, to hear Tommy Whitelaw’s take on inspiration.

Critical reflection

Critical reflection is a key skill when leading learning. Reflection involves thinking about your practice, learning from what you have thought about and then making use of what you have learnt. Genuine reflective thoughts often reveal areas for further development as well as strengths.

To reflect on your role as a Dementia Ambassador, or support others to reflect on their learning and practice, there are some tips to help you. To think and write reflectively you have to:

  • experience something
  • think about what happened
  • learn from the experience

You recognise critical reflection when you thought about an experience, identified what to learn from it and deliberately do something differently the next time. By thinking or reflecting on what’s going on around you, your experiences and actions will help you to develop and improve your skills. Reflection is self-awareness, self-improvement and empowerment.

Facilitation skills

In using reflective practice, it’s also valuable for Dementia Ambassadors to understand what a facilitator does and develop the skills to facilitate learning sessions for others where you work. Facilitating is similar to managing a project as the facilitator has responsibility for a range of tasks and must use his or her skills and knowledge to deliver on these tasks.

The SSSC facilitation resource, Using ourselves to facilitate (PDF) is for anyone who is facilitating group learning with a focus on achieving outcomes. It supports individuals and organisations who are interested in developing how they facilitate group learning and there is an emphasis on the underpinning values of personal outcomes and relationship-based support.

Resources developed to support the workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic which are helpful for Dementia Ambassadors.


NHS Education for Scotland (NES) Dementia Skilled resource

This webpage contains learning bytes and related resources including a video discussion on supporting people with dementia in care homes.


Alzheimer Scotland supporting phased family visiting podcast

In this podcast colleagues discuss work to support the wellbeing of care home residents during the pandemic.


Care Inspectorate Dementia Care during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic guidance(PDF)

To support people living with dementia and respond to individuals experiencing isolation the Care Inspectorate has developed helpful guidance which aligns with Module 4 of Dementia Skilled resource.


SSSC Support with death, dying and bereavement guide

We’ve produced a guide to help social service workers provide support to people who have palliative and end of life care needs during the during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Support with death, dying and bereavement during COVID-19 aims to help you feel confident about having good conversations about death and dying, discussing what is important to people and compassionately connecting with others.


SSSC Leading in crisis guide

This is a new leadership resource to support people in social services reflect on and develop their own, and others’ leadership capability, in particular during the COVID-19 period.

Personal outcomes and wellbeing

This information will help you explore what personal outcomes are, as well as risk in relation to personal outcomes. Dementia Ambassadors should consider where a personal outcomes approach enhances dementia learning and practice. Risk is a key part of supporting people living with dementia, and these resources can guide how you continue as a Dementia Ambassador to support and protect peoples' human rights.

The SSSC’s Personal Outcome Planning resource can help you to explore this topic more in depth. With links to the Personal Outcomes Planning ebook, the Understanding Personal Outcomes booklet, a PowerPoint presentation, practitioner perspectives and practice examples, these resources support your learning and can be used to facilitate learning with colleagues.

What are personal outcomes?

When considering personal outcomes, we identify the things that are important to people in their lives. A personal outcomes approach acknowledges individual strengths and works towards establishing a shared sense of purpose which everyone can contribute to, including the person, their family, carers and other community resources. This means moving away from only identifying an individual’s needs and problems and matching those to service solutions. Many national policies are now underpinned by personal outcomes approaches, including the National Dementia Strategy, with a range of services in Scotland already working this way.

The table below highlights the difference between service led and personal outcomes focused approaches in practice.

Service led Personal outcomes focused
Endpoint Delivery of service Collaborative working towards outcomes based on a shared sense of purpose
Format Pre-determined questions and answers Semi-structured conversation – open questions
Approach Obtaining information required for form filling Skilled interaction including active listening and reflecting back
Person Client, service user or person who receives services Person in their own right with skills, ability and a role to play in working towards their outcomes
Practitioner Expert Does have expertise but is an enabler and partner
Focus Identify deficits and match to a limited range of services Build on capacities and strengths towards creative solutions

Click on the different subsections marked with crosses below to learn more.

As a Dementia Ambassador supporting people living with dementia as well as other complex conditions, and life circumstances, you need to be trusted to make decisions, including those that involve resources and risk when working in a personal outcomes way.

There is now more emphasis on risk enablement, particularly with the introduction of Self Directed Support (SDS) which embeds the concept in legislation, but also more broadly in health and social care practice.

Assessing risk can at times be challenging. There can be different views about outcomes and risks within a family or caring situation. Carers can become risk averse through concern about the safety of the person(s) cared for and their own ability to cope should anything go wrong.

The Equal Partners in Care (EPIC) resource from NHS Education for Scotland (NES) and the SSSC gives more information about engaging and working with carers.

A helpful Restoring Relationships toolkit can be downloaded to support families and carers from TIDE Together in Dementia Everyday

There’s supportive information and scenarios in the SSSC’s A risk worth taking resource.

The Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services’ (Iriss) resource, Outcomes & Co: conversation openers, supports conversations within and between teams on the topic of risk and includes information cards which can be used as conversation prompts or background reading.

This section supports Dementia Ambassadors to consider wellbeing for people living with dementia and for yourself. A good starting point for supporting people living with dementia is finding out what they are interested and involved in. The Scottish Dementia Working Group (SDWG) supported the publication of a Roots to Occupation postcard (PDF) can highlight what areas to think about.

A good conversation can have a powerful impact on an individual, so supporting communication is a key skill for Dementia Ambassadors. Everyday conversations, that may be seen as blethers, can build a picture of the person’s interests, hobbies, their personality and cement a relationship.

NHS Education for Scotland (NES) has a useful resource, Communicating with and supporting people: information for support workers in health and care settings.

As well as good communication skills, there are other techniques for Dementia Ambassadors to explore which can improve an individual’s wellbeing.

Cognitive Stimulation Therapy (CST) is usually small group engagement in a range of activities and discussions aimed at enhancing cognitive and social functioning. Typically, CST consists of discussions between four or five people who live with dementia and facilitator(s) supporting the group.

Getting to know the person with dementia: the importance of memories resource by Social Care Institute of Excellence (SCIE) offers helpful advice.

The Friendship and Dementia leaflet by Alzheimer Scotland provides tips on how you can be, and support others to be, a good friend to a person with dementia.

Looking after your own emotional resilience especially during COVID-19

It’s vital that as Dementia Ambassador you take note of your own wellbeing and feelings, however, sometimes it can be hard to do. Remember to be kind and compassionate to yourself. Keeping yourself well is key to you being able to take care of others. We know you are often going the extra mile for those you support, sometimes at the expense of your own health and wellbeing. Caring for yourself is not selfish, it is essential.

The National Wellbeing Hub recognises the importance of your wellbeing and provides comprehensive advice on self-care and personal resilience.

There are many evidence and practice-based resources on personal outcomes approaches on the Personal Outcomes Collaboration website. The website offers resources applicable across service settings, with additional carer-specific  and dementia-specific materials on dedicated pages.

Further relevant information is set out in the Person-centred care during the COVID-19 pandemic: what matters to you online guide.

Reminiscence work supports people with mild to moderate dementia and conversation with staff and family members. Remembering Yesterday, Caring Today (RYCT) supports groups to develop a life story book with a person with dementia. You can find helpful guidance from The person behind the dementia and Life story work in dementia.

Compiling a playlist of favourite music often has a positive impact on an individual with dementia as well as their families and carers. Playlist for Life offer helpful advice and resources.

A moment in time (PDF) is a pocket activity tool. It has been specifically designed to encourage the use of meaningful activity in a simple format to promote conversation, reduce boredom, improve social stimulation and support therapeutic relationships for older people.

Community connections and engagement

Dementia Ambassadors have a role to support links between personal outcomes, community connections and carers’ quality of life. Key to this is understanding the importance of maintaining valued relationships that people have in their communities and the potential for new relationships.

To support you to chat with people living with dementia, their families and your colleagues you could explore developing a Dementia Friendly Community.

Life Changes Trust have a toolkit on developing a Dementia Friendly Community.

To find out if there are other Dementia Ambassadors or Dementia Champions in your organisation or local community, email us at Promotingexcellence@sssc.uk.com

Click on the different subsections marked with crosses below to learn more.

Supporting people with dementia to maintain or develop their social networks and community connections is important to their wellbeing.

If you work in a care home that people move to, from where they lived before, there may be challenges to you in making connections. You may also be supporting people who because of their dementia are struggling to access the communities or maintain supports that have been an important part of their lives for a long time.

Good conversations are key to supporting people with dementia to continue to maintain or to develop community connections. You can use resources such as the Come on in booklet (PDF) by the Care Inspectorate to support people to maintain relationships.

With more people living for longer in the community with long term conditions, it is necessary to think differently about how to blend the abilities that people have with community resources or assets. It’s valuable to develop connections if more formal support would help an individual to sustain and/or to improve health, wellbeing and quality of life.

Building community connections will be an ever-changing process, driven by the demands of individuals you support and by working in a personal outcomes focused way. There’s guidance on community engagement in a booklet (PDF) from Alliance Scotland, We’ve got to talk about outcomes.

Anticipatory care planning

As well as good relationships, where people have lived and how active they’ve been in their local area or communities can influence how they think about and prioritise for their future care.

An Anticipatory Care Plan (ACP) can be used as a dynamic record that can be developed over time through an evolving conversation and shared decision making. It is a summary of discussions between the cared for person, their carer and the practitioner. The ACP national toolkit includes a range of video stories including carers and professionals.

This video from Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS) describes ACP’s and how they can benefit the person living with dementia as well as how to take a collaborative, integrated approach focusing on conversations.

The Good Life, Good Death, Good Grief initiative provides helpful information and resources.

The Dementia Ambassador role involves working collaboratively with colleagues and enabling others to support people living with dementia, as well as their carers’. You may need to engage and network with others in your local area or across Scotland to support workers in their dementia learning and development.

The Life Changes Trust has a range of valuable resources and examples of different methods of engaging in communities to support people living with dementia.

You can also connect with online groups for advice and to share approaches to support. These groups may have their own points of digital connection you can review such as Trello, Microsoft Teams channels and Facebook or hold regular meetings that you could join.

Alzheimer Scotland has developed About Digital and Me (ADAM) to help individuals, families and carers to find suitable digital products and services.

What makes us who we are?

Thinking about people living with dementia as individuals, it’s important to recognise the different components that make us who we are such as genetics, life experiences, the environment and culture we engage with.

Alzheimer Scotland’s Spotlight on dementia and equalities (PDF) includes helpful information.

Adopting a person-centred approach involves working in an individual and holistic way. It is important to understand how to support equality as well as how to recognise and respect the cultural identities that people have. People you work with might have different life experiences to your own, or live with a disability, as well as a diagnosis of dementia.

Scotland’s national dementia strategies recognise the need to support people protected by the Equality Act 2010. In response to this, in 2016 the Dementia and Equality – Meeting the challenge in Scotland report was published.

As a Dementia Ambassador, it’s important to support those we work with to ensure they understand the significance of considering the individual, assisting them to have conversations and to discuss anything else that is of importance to the person living with dementia. The following video from Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) shares examples of working with people in a person-centred way as well as the importance of meeting cultural needs.


A Local Information System for Scotland (ALISS)

ALISS is a national resource which can be useful to help people find help, support and services close by.


NES Promoting psychological wellbeing for people with dementia and their carers: An enhanced practice resource (PDF)

This resource is designed to enhance your understanding of dementia from a psychological perspective, and to enable you to apply this learning to your working practice when supporting people with dementia and their families and carers.


The Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) Dementia Resource Hub

The living with dementia section looks in detail at lots of aspects of living with dementia – for the person with the diagnosis, and their family and friends too.


Scottish Care Cameo: Dementia and sexuality (PDF)

The cameo explores some of the challenges LGBT people in Scotland experience when faced with a diagnosis of dementia and explains what can be done to address these before considering the experience of older people in Scotland in relation to sexual health.


Alzheimer Scotland sexuality and dementia information sheet

This information sheet provides details on sexuality and dementia.


Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) dementia resources

RNIB have created resources to support those living with dementia and sight loss. To demonstrate how learning from the resources have been used in practice you can complete an Open Badge.


Local Area Co-ordination (LAC)

LAC is a preventative, asset based approach to supporting people make connections in their communities and build better lives.

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