Reflections on the 10th UK Dementia Congress

Last Tuesday morning I excitedly boarded the train to begin my journey to the 10th UK Dementia Congress in Telford. I was looking forward to diving into the Dementia world, meeting new people as well as those I have connected with on Twitter. The programme looked fantastic and it was the first residential conference I have attended – expectations were high!

On Thursday evening I boarded the train home – flagging and exhausted, with a lot to process! My feelings during the week were so mixed.  At times I felt the buzz of enthusiasm, of future prospects; at other times I felt the despair and struggles still going on all around us in dementia care – not to mention to the health and social care systems as a whole!

A question

The Congress opened with a debate, the subject in question: has dementia care improved in the last 10 years?
Despite the immense challenges still ahead of us, it is clear that times have changed since 2005. With the rise of dementia awareness, and increased funding into research, times are set to continue changing – it’s safe to say I’m excited to be a part of it!

Reflections

I have tried to summarize my reflections in 4 points:

  1. We were given a statistic that 80% of people living with dementia live at home – I wonder why, then, the vast majority of the talks and groups at this conference focused on long term care and acute hospitals?
  2. There appeared a distinct lack of recognition of Occupational Therapy and the multi-disciplinary team. One presentation in particular boasted of multi-disciplinary involvement in looking at nutrition and dementia on a hospital ward – need I explain my indignation at OTs NOT being involved in the MDT list provided?! Aaaand breathe…
  3. There seemed to be limited focus on understanding eating and drinking difficulties in dementia, and little research about it – something that definitely encouraged me to continue with my research, of course.
  4. A positive – it was really great to see and hear about small projects springing up around the country: wards and A&E departments being renovated to be dementia friendly, a dementia home treatment team being set up and projects to make the care provided in care homes more person-centred. Another of my favourites – an excellent research project on how to use gardens in a therapeutic way, to improve the quality of lives for people living in care homes.
    Despite the sparseness of outcomes or evidence presented in some of these, what excites me is the fact that things like this weren’t happening 10 years ago. Who knows how much further these will have developed in the next 10 years, becoming so much more wide-spread?

Look to the future!

So… I encourage everyone reading this to look forward with anticipation towards the next 10 years. Sadly, the prevalence of dementia is currently on the rise, but with a continued fervour for research and an ever-increasing awareness of it, there is strong hope for improved quality of care and dignity for people with dementia… perhaps even a cure.

Reaching a phd milestone is a good time to look back

PhD Progress and Academic Advice – What I learned in my first PhD milestones

It has been a while since I last posted so I thought I would update you on my progress. The last couple of months have been primarily spent working on my 2nd milestone – the initial literature review.

What does this involve?

A lot of searching databases, a lot of reading, and a lot of learning! My conclusion: confirmation of my belief that dementia care in acute hospitals, more specifically during meal times, is a much needed and relevant research topic.

So, despite ups and downs, despair and breakthrough: the times I wanted to give up and the times I may have lost my passion and direction, I am (for now) ready to soldier on!

Relief is the best way to describe how it feels to finally submit this milestone. Pulling all the work together, and realising my final conclusion, has lifted me back up to carry on. On top of this, a reflection on the last 9 months has given me the little boost I needed.

Reflecting…

Having started in February of this year, I missed the initial research modules provided to the new starters of last October; therefore, I found myself, this October, in the ‘research training’ with a group of amazing enthusiasts ready to start their own Masters and PhD programmes. In addition to the valuable teaching from the module I began to realise something else – I actually have made progress personally, professionally and academically in the last 9 months! Being able to answer some of the worries and concerns these people felt as they entered the unknown instilled some self-confidence, in that I have the answers to SOME of the questions.

Some practical tips!

In light of my experience so far I will leave with a little advice for anyone embarking on this journey (or thinking about it):

1. There will be good times and bad, and you will not always feel positive but keep your eye on the goal and keep hold of why you chose to take this path.

2. Right from the beginning keep a record of your search strategy and reading – this will save a lot of time!

3. Use each other for support, meeting up for coffee is not a waste of time (unless it’s too often!). Often talking through and encouraging each other can give you the boost you need!

4. Value your clinical work, don’t lose focus on the reason for choosing a clinical academic pathway.

5. Finally… this advice from Dame Jessica Corner: “the first step to changing the world is to believe what you are doing is important.”