With five weeks to go until the International Dementia Conference and Care & Dementia Show in Birmingham, Alzheimer’s INSIGHTS is pleased to launch a series of interviews with some of the key people involved, beginning in this week’s issue with a most appropriate opener. Professor June Andrews has become a leading light in dementia care not only in the UK but globally and, with the team she leads at the Dementia Services Development Centre (DSDC) at the University of Stirling, she is the driving inspiration behind the conference.
June, thanks for taking the time away from all your conference planning to talk with INSIGHTS. Can we start with the focus of the conference: there are lots of events around dementia, social care, medical research. What clearly stands out about your conference is the international angle. Why did you decide to go global, and how did you go about it?
Because DSDC works globally, we witness interesting people and inspiring projects everywhere, not limited by what can seem in any one country to be something of a “dementia bubble”. Local initiatives are great, but we can all learn from other countries that are struggling with similar issues.
When I have heard Professor Cortes speak of nursing initiatives, and Sarah Lenz Lock speak of social care issues, both in the USA, I realise that the learning from them can help us here in the UK. Our connection with the Chinese University of Hong Kong goes a long way back, and from them we can see the importance of rigorous research, challenging cultural assumptions and considering the economics of care.
Now running concurrently with the conference is the Care & Dementia Show, which I understand is a trade exhibition, featuring some 200-odd exhibitors? Is this similarly global in the companies it has attracted?
Well, the exhibitors are now running at 250 - so many that we have added an extra four Conference concurrent sessions that will be escorted, guided tours of some of the key exhibits rather than listening to papers. Many of the companies do operate on a global level, and some will be familiar manufacturers of furniture and technology. However I’m really excited about an innovation section that we’ve set up for start-ups who want to share their new ideas.
What about the International Dementia Awards: similarly drawing on best practice from around the word but pretty complicated to have organised?
Judging the awards has been the greatest pleasure. Although some of the finalists come from around the world, the USA, Australia, the Far East and may not be able to join us on the night, it will be very exciting to hear Joan Bakewell making the announcements. The variety and quality of the ideas from home and abroad is amazing. We’ve had a record number on Dementia and the Arts, and people with dementia feature as finalists as well. I’m particularly impressed with the showing from the NHS in the UK, as well as the care home and housing sector.
Now two of the key themes of the conference appear to be research and a focus on the housing sector. What sort of research will we be looking at, first of all?
We have really tried not to narrow down the areas of research too closely, except to say we want to focus on what is practical and makes a difference. Professor Sube Banerjee will give us a research roundup and the individual presentations vary from research on how people actually use technology in dementia care at home, to how to run a dementia education programme, and many points in between. In addition the exhibition of posters will offer the chance to view about 30 more research projects.
And the housing sector: what is behind your particular interest in highlighting that?
Housing is crucial in the care of people with dementia. Two thirds to three quarters of those with dementia in the UK still live at home, and when they leave home they enter the most expensive, and sadly for many people, the least desired part of the journey. A good care home is great, but we can’t afford to have the length of stay that has built up historically.
Having the right design in your home can make a significant difference, even if it only extends your time at home by a matter of months. Having home care staff and housing staff who can facilitate and extend your comfortable time at home is an economic necessity for all countries. And it is what people with dementia say they want. So we need to do research and share ideas about what makes a difference in the housing sector.
What do you hope will be the chief takeaway from the conference for the people attending it? What ideally would you hope to see as the benefits they will gain from being there?
Our plan is that this will be the conference where you go away having heard a significant amount of new, practical ideas, from people who you’ve not heard – or even heard of – before. Because we’ve selected the best concurrent sessions, posters and plenary speakers: we know that it will be an intensive learning experience, particularly with the opportunity to visit such a huge trade fair at the same time.
Time is short, and so is money, so this will be the best value dementia event in the annual calendar . . . highlighting the world’s best while promoting some very good people from our own back yard. We want to keep in touch after this event to work up the world’s best programme, literally, for 2016.
About Alzheimer’s Insights
Alzheimer’s Insights is an online newsletter created for consumers -- primarily patients and carers -- who live with the challenge of Alzheimer’s disease. Based upon intelligent search algorithms that scour the Internet for the most read, relevant and useful stories from around the world, it is curated and published each Tuesday by a team of health and publishing experts. You can subscribe for future weekly newsletters here.