Be Able helping hundreds improve their quality of life

Older people with dementia in Edinburgh are taking advantage of a specially designed programme that helps to strengthen both mind and body.

Known as Be Able, it has been available since 2015 and currently benefits approximately 350 people a year. It’s provided at a number of City of Edinburgh Day Services as well as one voluntary sector operation. The programme involves a combination of physical exercise and cognitive stimulation therapy (CST) and has proved both popular and effective.

Lewis Hunston, Day Service Manager at the City of Edinburgh Council, explained: “The programme is 16 weeks long. Initially, an occupational therapist carries out an assessment at home to assess the person’s suitability. We establish a range of outcome measures and undertake a risk assessment to use as a baseline to monitor and report progress, and make any necessary adjustments as the programme goes along.

“It’s aimed generally at people aged over 65, but particularly those over 80. Our main aim is to reduce the risk of falls among this population and provide a treatment for people with mild to moderate dementia to maintain and improve cognitive skills.”

The physical exercises, a programme called Otago, help with core and muscle strength, building stamina and confidence. Meanwhile, CST – a programme of themed activities – helps improve mental abilities and memory.

Lewis added: “The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recognises CST as one of the non-medicinal interventions for dementia that actually works. And people can choose to do the exercise programme, CST or both.”

At the end of the programme, which has been recognised by the Scottish Dementia Awards, the occupational therapist and other staff meet with the individual, review their progress and, if necessary, talk with their family and signpost them to other services.

Care Inspectorate inspector, Alison Bond said: “People at risk from social isolation benefit from getting together as a group and the CST helps prompt valuable memories. During inspection I spoke to participants who said that doing the exercises with the group spurred them on to continue at home.

“It’s a great service that helps enhance people’s quality of care in a number of ways.”