Sweden. A beautiful land of trees, lakes, more trees and more lakes.
The country is also home to at least two internationally-renowned ‘centres of excellence in dementia research’, in Linköping University and the Karolinska Institute, and it is the land which I was honored to visit last week!
The Alzheimer’s Society and NIHR provided funding for an amazing opportunity for Dementia PhD Researchers around the UK and Sweden to get together to learn, network and be inspired. I am privileged to have been a part of it!
So, apart from taking away a selection of Swedish vocabulary, exploring the beautiful city of Norrköping, and enjoying a stunning train journey from Stockholm to Norrköping at sunset, here are my reflections on a fantastic few days:
Part of a team creating change in the dementia world
- It was so great to reunite with PhD students from other CLAHRCs who I met last year at the NIHR event in Windsor. We had the opportunity to share and discuss each of our research projects; it’s so great to see what progress has been made in the last year. Additionally, there were more PhD Students who have joined the Alzheimer’s Society and NIHR programs in the last year. Together we really are building a foundation of dementia research, which is certain to lead to change!
- Of particular interest to me was meeting a new researcher and dietitian (Louise Wilkinson) who is researching nutrition and dementia. I have now connected with dietitians, nurses and speech and language therapists researching this topic, as well as providing my own OT perspective. I’m so excited to be a part of building this multidisicplinary, rich research base to improve nutritional care for people with dementia.
Gaining an international perspective of dementia research and dementia care
- A 7AM start was well worth it when we were taken to spend time in a Swedish day-centre for people with dementia. Considering the language barrier and effects of dementia on verbal communication we had some great interactions and laughs over breakfast. Body language really is universal (plus a little translation help from the Swedish staff was helpful!)
- From the day centre we took a bus across town to see a fantastic new nursing home facility. People in Sweden seem to stay at home a lot longer than in the UK, but when they move into the nursing home the care appears amazing! It is so person-centred, with washing machines in their own apartments (no losing clothes to other residents!) and their own kitchen areas. The Finnish wing, with only Finnish staff, even had a sauna! I feel we in the UK can learn a lot from the Swedish culture’s respectful attitude towards older people and personhood.
- The afternoon of Day 2 brought the privilege of meeting and hearing from Louise Nygard, Professor in Occupational Therapy – an inspiration and a game-changer in the world of OT and dementia research. How exciting to be able to meet and learn from Professor Nygard, and hopefully a beginning to building links to other OTs across the globe!
A much needed boost to keep going and get writing
- The main highlight was a session about writing and publications by Professor Tony Arthur. We discussed the challenges to getting writing, and really practical ways to get over the barriers. It’s comforting to know that even experienced researchers who have loads of published papers still know what it’s like to struggle with motivation and often rejection of their work! Additionally, there were helpful applications of ‘where to start’ when publishing a paper, and useful tips in overcoming procrastination and ‘writers block’.
The perfect end to an inspiring few days!
As you can tell there was a lot packed into our 3 days in Sweden – these are just my highlights!
Thank you to the NIHR and Alzheimer’s Society for funding this time to network internationally and to be re-energised. There can be no doubt that there is a group of dementia PhD researchers ready and raring to get on with shaping dementia care around the world!