29 June 2019

Dementia in the workplace: the implications for career development practice

Next month, Dr Valerie Egdell and I will be presenting at the British Society of Gerontology 48th Annual Conference which takes place from 10th – 12th July 2019 in Liverpool. We are paper 136, part of the Work, retirement and the economy session. An abstract for our paper can be found below. 

This is the first public presentation of our (with Dr Louise Ritchie) highly important work on this topic. 

It is recognised that dementia is, and will increasingly be, a workplace issue. While continued employment is not appropriate for all, it is possible (Ritchie et al., 2018). At present however, many individuals leave the workplace before, or on receipt of, a diagnosis of dementia (Ritchie et al., 2018). Continued employment, facilitated by reasonable adjustments, or redeployment, may not be considered; such that employers may fail meet their legal and human rights obligations to support employees with dementia (Egdell et al., 2018; Ritchie et al., 2018). The workplace exits of people with dementia are often poor, compromising dignity and self-esteem (Ritchie et al., 2018). This paper argues that more attention needs to be given to supporting employees with dementia to either remain in work or exit the workplace, and that career development practice has a key role in this. While attention has been paid to the career development needs of older workers and persons with disabilities (Chen, 2011; Soresi et al., 2008), there has been no consideration of persons with dementia. This paper considers the role of careers practitioners can play in the development and implementation of coping strategies to aid the continued employment of persons with dementia. When continued employment is not possible, the role of careers practitioners in the range of decisions, that extend beyond the cessation of work, is considered. In reflecting on the role of career development practice in supporting employees with dementia, the importance of cross-disciplinary work between this area and (social) gerontology is stressed.

3 June 2019

Scottish Breastfeeding Awareness Week

A post for Scottish Breastfeeding Awareness Week

I'm not going to post specific stats here about breastfeeding. This post is simply about how I wanted to breastfeed my children and I have done, against the odds. I grew up in the UK borough with the lowest rates of breastfeeding and having gone for 2 years with my first child and breaking the 1 year mark with my second today I'm in a minority of women who breastfeed their children beyond an initial period of weeks or months. 

Two things that have made this possible:

1. My first child weighed, wait for it, 11lb 1oz at birth. He breastfed in the hospital after a traumatic forceps birth. He refused to feed when we got home. He lost 10% of his birth weight. When the midwife (from the team at the then Glasgow Southern General Hospital) came round to check on us we were on the verge of being readmitted. Said midwife cleared their diary for the rest of the day and told me they were staying with me until we got it sorted. I wanted to breastfeed, so breastfeed I would. Dad was sent off to Tesco for a breast pump, a steriliser and a small box of formula, just in case. By the time he got back the baby was latched on and pretty much didn't latch off again until the week before his 2nd birthday. 

2. I had seen other mothers breastfeeding as they went about their daily business.

Being a visible breastfeeder

The second point is why it has been important to me, especially over the last year, to be vocal and visible about breastfeeding and to get on with it wherever and whenever it's been necessary. My second child had absolutely no issues with breastfeeding but has never taken a bottle of expressed milk. It's made exclusively breastfeeding trickier, but still doable, and has had the added bonus of meaning I've been out there role-modelling to the max for other women who might want to breastfeed in the future. 

A few things that I personally think would make breastfeeding easier (for women like me): 
  • Ditch the Breastfeeding Friendly campaign: (controversial I know but...) in three years of feeding I've not once checked to see if it's OK to breastfeed. If you could drink a cup of tea or coffee somewhere then you can breastfeed your baby there. The sign "lets you know that businesses like cafes and restaurants will make an extra effort to look after and welcome breastfeeding mums" - What exactly are we talking about beyond common decency and being part of a society where we would look out for someone who has both hands full with a baby feeding from the breast or bottle? Not all babies want a quiet space for feeding, not all mums want to hide behind a curtain whilst breastfeeding - we can't be prescriptive about what's needed. (Note: if we are talking foot massages and haircuts while feeding, that's a different matter)
  • Fund broader concepts of peer support: peer support is not set up for working mums and we need to stop assuming that all breastfeeding mums are on extended maternity leave and can trot off for a chat about how they are getting on during the day on a weekday
  • Please, Scottish Government, put reusable, washable breast pads into the baby box: the plastic backed ones make your boobs sweaty, fall out and are an example of a single-use plastic that doesn't make the job any easier