Can we create a dementia-friendly society? This was the question around which people with dementia, carers, professionals and academic researchers gathered during the 26th Alzheimer Europe conference in Copenhagen.
A large representation from the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) attended the event to promote the innovative (and diverse) research that the Institute is nationally and internationally renowned for and contribute with their ideas and expertise to the scientific discourse around dementia. All the attendees had unique networking opportunities with colleagues from all over the world and many of us presented their work through posters and oral presentations. Professor Martin Orrell, director of the IMH and Head of the division of Psychiatry and Applied Psychology, was present to promote the work of the institute and to create new European partnerships in dementia research.
Professor Tom Dening, head of the IMH Centre for Dementia, gave an oral presentation during the INTERDEM session entitled, ‘Where’s the happiness in dementia?’, which led to a lively discussion about the emotional experiences of people with dementia. He gave an oral presentation on a parallel session about (The Arts and Dementia), a programme of the Nottingham-Worcester doctoral training centre funded by the Alzheimer’s Society. Tom also exhibited a poster on the NIHR Optimal project on effective health care for older people resident in care homes. A Medical student, Imogen Ovenden, who Tom supervises for her BMedSci, displayed a poster entitled ‘Bowling for Dementia’
Professor Justine Schneider and Alessandro Bosco co-presented a Social return on investment analysis of the Imagine study on arts interventions for people with dementia. People with dementia and their carers reported positive outcomes in relation to the mental wellbeing of participating individuals following involvement in arts programmes. These findings call for consistent integration of diverse arts activities in the care setting.
An example of art performance which promotes the mental wellbeing and quality of life of people with dementia was illustrated by Dr Orii McDermott, who presented on the development and preliminary evaluation of the CHORD (CHOrus Research in Dementia) Manual. This project aims to identify music therapeutic techniques that are transferable to facilitators of music activities and to develop a standardised singing manual.
Quality of life was central to the work that Déborah De Oliveira presented, entitled ‘Identifying meaningful aspects of quality of life for older family carers of people with dementia in focus groups’. Deborah also had a poster on the ‘Development and psychometric evaluation of the dementia quality of life scale for older family carers – DQoL-OC’. Our colleague Lucy Perry-Young presented ‘Broadening our understanding of good home care for people with dementia’.
Some PhD students also attended the conference. Aline Cavalcanti Barroso and Harleen Rai had an opportunity to collect ideas around their PhD projects on assistive technology in dementia. Claudio Di Lorito discussed and promoted his PhD project on the mental health of forensic psychiatric patients with dementia.
Having just begun with my doctoral studies, this was a spectacular first taste of my journey in dementia research. Indeed, I considered this my baptism of fire, as I had the opportunity to co-present my work in front of a large and technical audience during a parallel session. This was a fulfilling experience and a professionally enriching one, as I was able to challenge my stage fright, build up confidence and master my presentation. The audience responded engagingly to my talk and I was thrilled to receive very positive feedback from members of the audience at the end.
Although there were several poster and oral presentations on quality of care, little was dedicated to the models of person-centred care in dementia. Does the support people with dementia receive respect their personhood? Are the current models inclusive of the experience of the carers? During my first year, I aim to gather the existing evidence in this crucial area through a scoping review around person-centred care models. Given the centrality of personhood and the role of carers in delivering the care, it is timely that this concept is acknowledged and addressed if we aim to build a dementia-friendly society. I hope I will have the opportunity to present the findings of my review during the conference next year and share good practice with colleagues from different countries at the INTERDEM academy meetings to come.
Hoping that an even larger representation of researchers and people from the public will attend next year’s conference, we invite you to join us as ambassadors for dementia at the Alzheimer Europe conference 2017 in Berlin, Germany.
Alessandro Bosco is a postgraduate researcher and an Economic and Social Research Council PhD candidate in Mental Health & Wellbeing at the Institute of mental Health, University of Nottingham. Contact: Alessandro.firstname.lastname@example.org