Not that long ago the Dementia and Mental Health of Older Adults CEN (previously the psychiatry of old age CEN) wrote an article on the roles an SLT may take on when dealing with issues surrounding the mental capacity Act (Devereux et al, 2016). These were developed from a workshop we ran at one of our study days where we discussed the breadth of our roles and the responsibilities these roles may be accompanied by. The bulletin magazine (Royal college of speech and language therapy practice magazine) article in July 2016 summarised these discussions.
More recently another group of clinicians (Bamford, Dixon, Mather et al, 2017) have responded to this with another article in the Bulletin magazine. This article builds on what was previously written by delving into the roles and providing clinical examples of where SLTs have acted in these roles in response to clinical situations. The article showcases some wonderful examples including a case where the SLT acts as an assessor in examining the decision making capacity of a young women with a learning disability around using the Internet. The authors also provided a great example of the role of the SLT as a trainer; they describe two training sessions delivered to a group of 40 social workers on the role of the SLT. The authors emphasise how this type of training can support other health professionals to engage with SLT support more appropriately in terms of our role in assessment and best interest decision making.
How wonderful that we as a discipline can have this conversation. When health professionals do not feel competent in an area of practice they are less likely to engage In work in this area. SLTs are starting to feel more competent in this area. SLTs are having more conversations, doing more research and providing more examples of great practice.
The Dementia and Mental Health of Older Adults CEN (previously the Southern Psychiatry of Old Age CEN) are planning to do more learning around advance planning. I feel this is an area where SLTs can really support people in engaging in advance planning, for example creating appropriate documents and tools to support people to express their wishes and preferences. I look forward to hearing the next stage in the debate!