Meet the researcher: Laura Ashley

Meet Laura Ashley, Reader in Health Psychology at Leeds Beckett University.

Favourite things? 

  • Books – The tipping point and Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell.
  • Way to spend time – With my two young children and, when they’re in bed, with a gin.
  • Memory – Finding out our IVF treatment to have our children had ‘worked’. 
Laura Ashley

Why dementia research? 

Since my PhD I’ve worked in cancer research, but this has come to include people with dementia. One in two people will develop cancer in their lifetime, mostly when they’re older, and many cancers are now curable or treatable as a long-term condition. 

As a result, many people who now develop and live with cancer already have dementia.

Compared to other cancer patients, people with dementia are more likely to have their cancer diagnosed at a later stage, or not at all.

They also tend to receive less cancer treatment, suffer more treatment complications and have their cancer pain less well managed.

How has Alzheimer’s Society supported your work? 

We’ve found that people who support relatives or friends with both dementia and cancer find it emotionally and practically difficult to manage the two conditions. There’s a lack of information and peer support tailored to their specific situation – dealing with cancer alongside dementia. 

Based on this, we worked with Alzheimer’s Society to establish a cancer-specific area of Talking Point, the Society’s online community.

In this area, people with dementia and their carers can ask and reply to questions about dealing with cancer when someone also has dementia. 

They can take part in live Q&A sessions with specialist health care professionals, and they can read Q&As that have already taken place. For example, one was with the UK’s only dementia nurse employed in a cancer centre, who supports people with dementia and their families through making decisions about and undergoing cancer treatment. 

You can find the ‘Caring for a person with dementia and cancer’ area on Talking Point.

What are you currently working on? 

We have just finished a study looking at ways that hospital cancer departments can improve care for people with dementia.

We now want to work with managers and clinicians to see how ideas from our research could be implemented in practice. 

In what direction would you like to take your research in future? 

Our work has focused on hospital-based cancer care, but we know many people with dementia do not receive anti-cancer treatments. We would like to extend our work to consider how GPs can support people affected by dementia to make decisions about cancer treatments and manage cancer symptoms. 

What can you do to help?

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Dementia together magazine: June/July 21

Dementia together magazine is for all Alzheimer’s Society supporters and anyone affected by the condition.
Subscribe now
Dementia together magazine is for all Alzheimer’s Society supporters and anyone affected by the condition.
Subscribe now