Changing the dementia landscape. It starts with leadership

Published: 22 May 2017 By Jennifer Jackson

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Alzheimer’s Society is the UK’s leading dementia charity. Our vision is a world without dementia. Until the day we find a cure, our passionate volunteers and employees are striving to create a society where everyone affected by the condition is supported and accepted. Every day, our teams provide essential information and support, improve care, fund research and create lasting change for people affected by dementia. 

Kathryn Smith, director of operations, discusses the scale of the challenge and how our values drive Alzheimer’s Society to make a profound difference…

Kathryn

Kathryn Smith, director of operations, Alzheimer's Society

What inspired you to come and work at Alzheimer’s Society?

I have a long history of working in social care, so I’m familiar with the problems in navigating the system and getting the right care and support. What excited me about Alzheimer’s Society was its national reach, its ability to influence government and its growing role in shaping policy. I was also attracted by the opportunity to innovate and drive better ways of providing the support people need in the way they want to receive it. That’s a hard combination to beat.

What are the key challenges you face in the coming years?

The challenges are both logistical and financial. Someone develops dementia every three minutes and means more than a million people are expected to be living with the condition by 2021. We need to keep dementia high on the government’s agenda, while still delivering quality services and generating the funds to respond effectively to what is perhaps the biggest social care issue of our generation.

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What does ’United against Dementia’ mean in operational terms?

Operations are at the frontline of our fight against dementia. Every day we see the struggle of people affected by it, as well as their families and carers. We need people to unite with us to improve care, offer support and ultimately to help find a cure. This message underlines everything the Society does.

We want everyone to know that they are not alone regardless of where they are and what stage of their journey they are at. This involves  advisers, support workers and activities at local and regional level, plus a national helpline contributing to the development of information and awareness-building initiatives. We also work closely with other organisations to help empower them to respond to the challenges: providing dementia training and consultancy services.  

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What roles are you currently recruiting and how do they fit within the bigger picture?

The teams in operations are split into four areas and there are diverse roles available in each. Our national services (including information, advice and support) focuses on uniting departments within the Society and ensuring people affected by dementia and the general public have all the information they need.

The local services (including front line delivery of 1:2:1 services) responsible for the delivery of services ‘on the ground’. The commercial intelligence and outreach team are accountable for ensuring appropriate development systems are in place to ensure a continuous cycle of research/innovation/demonstration/evaluation.

The business and strategic change team are the lead change agent within operations and provide a framework for transformational change.

The exciting new roles that we are recruiting for include; operations directors, head of regions, head of knowledge, head of dementia voice, and also a variety of manager level positions including: process and quality manager, safeguarding manager and many more. 

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What qualities and values do you need to do well at Alzheimer’s Society?

Beyond role specific skills, you must be passionately committed to our goals and have the personal and professional drive to help us reach them. 

As an organisation, we believe in implementing change, challenging injustice and making a meaningful difference to people who rely on us. That takes rather special employees and volunteers. So we look for people who can champion our cause, show empathy, collaborate with colleagues, connect with service users and do whatever it takes to deliver positive results.

It demands resilience, too. The dementia landscape is changing rapidly, we need to adapt fast to stay relevant and effective. That makes for an extremely interesting and dynamic working environment.

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Our values are: 

  • We’re committed to creating a world without dementia
  • We get it, We are united, We will do it
  • We are looking for people who can see some of themselves in our values and can commit to striving towards this bold statement

What is the most interesting, satisfying or challenging aspect of your role?

The best aspect of my role – and this is true for most roles at the Society, I think – is the impact we have on others. You can see the difference you’re making. When a team pulls together and finds an even better way of doing things, to make an even greater difference to people with dementia, it is a great sense of achievement. 

I also volunteer for our Side by Side service, which involves giving support to local people with dementia who often feel isolated. The goal is to be guided by them and support them to keep doing the things they love – I find it immensely rewarding. 

All of our leadership team gets involved with front line activities such as Memory Walks. It keeps us all grounded in the reality of dementia and empowers us with greater knowledge, confidence and understanding. 

Five years from now, what do you want the Society to have achieved?

I want us to have changed the landscape of dementia forever. We will be able to say with confidence that no one has to face dementia alone, they’ll have the support and advice they need, and people with dementia are treated as equal members of society within dementia-friendly communities. We’ll have increased public awareness and understanding, ending the stigma associated with the condition. 

Explore the opportunities today, visit Alzheimer’s Society’s website.

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