Dementia care: Michelle Miller’s Story

Published: 17 Sep 2018

Author: Michelle Miller
Dementia care: Michelle Miller’s Story

Dementia lead Michelle Miller travelled to the USA and Japan in 2015 to learn how health and social care systems are supporting people with dementia and their carers. Her Fellowship has inspired her to lead a volunteer initiative that is turning her local town into a more supportive place for people with dementia, and this has been recognised in two recent awards.

The journey

Today 800,000 people live with dementia in the UK - and by 2050 this number is expected to rise to 1.7 million. Michelle is the Portfolio Lead for Scotland’s national improvement programme for dementia, which is called Focus on Dementia and based at Healthcare Improvement Scotland. She believes that, with the right support and care, people with dementia can live well, remain resilient and continue to be a part of their communities.

She wanted to use her Fellowship to learn about the care co-ordination in the community for people with dementia in Japan and the USA, and to compare this with how Scotland is supporting similar people.

During her travels, Michelle visited organisations and individuals delivering dementia care, as well as people living with dementia and their families. She witnessed many examples where the voices of people with dementia and their carers were being listened to and valued. She was also impressed with much of the personalised planning and person-centred care being practised in group homes, day centres and communities.

Below: Dinner at a group home and day centre in Tokyo. Staff and people with dementia prepare food, set the table and enjoy a meal together. Michelle is pictured third from left.

Dinner at a group home in Tokyo


She was particularly inspired by her visit to Uji City, the first dementia-friendly community in the world. In Uji City, everyone from the mayor to local business leaders, to people with dementia and their carers themselves, are contributing to supporting people with dementia. Through training and education, they have reduced stigma and given people an understanding of how they can support people with dementia in their daily lives.

A typical idea they’ve had is to place a small lemon in the windows of shops where dementia training has taken place, giving confidence to people with dementia that inside they will receive the support they need.

Below: men at a day centre in Tokyo prepare leaflets. An initiative in Japan develops employment opportunities to enable people with dementia to continue contributing to their communities

Preparing leaflets at a day centre in Tokyo

The results

Since returning to the UK, Michelle has begun leading a volunteer initiative in her local community called ‘Dementia Friendly Prestwick’. This exciting project involves people with dementia and their carers to promote an inclusive culture that supports people to stay connected and part of their community.

Watch Michelle talk about dementia-friendly communities

Just some of the activities undertaken to date by Dementia Friendly Prestwick are health walks, a dementia-friendly garden, intergenerational events with schools, and dementia-friendly training for local businesses and community groups.

The initiative has worked in partnership with Sainsbury’s to create a relaxed shopping lane in the local supermarket, supporting people who need a bit of extra time and support at the check-out. Initially run as a pilot, Sainsbury’s have now agreed to continue the relaxed lane as part of everyday business and will work with Dementia Friendly Prestwick to look at appropriate signage and seating to accompany it.

In 2017 Michelle was awarded the Everyday Heroes Award for her efforts in dementia-friendly communities. In 2018, Dementia Friendly Prestwick was shortlisted for Scotland’s Dementia Awards.

Apply for a Fellowship

Read Michelle’s report

Read Michelle’s Fellowship blog

Follow Dementia Friendly Prestwick on Twitter and Facebook

Read more Fellows’ Stories in Dementia