'Meeting real people and hearing their stories had really helped me to understand the reality of dementia over and above the textbook medical definitions.'
Lauren Merrison, the programme’s Network Manager, talks to us about the achievements of the programme so far and its plans for the future.
What is Time for dementia?
Time for Dementia is an exciting, innovative, award-winning educational programme designed to create a new generation of healthcare professionals who are more aware and understanding of dementia.
The programme provides undergraduate healthcare professionals with on-going, regular contact with a person with dementia and their carer.
Funded by Health Education Kent, Sussex and Surrey, Time for Dementia in now embedded as a mandatory part of the curriculum for first year nursing and paramedic students at University of Surrey and for second year medical students at Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS).
Further funding is now enabling Time for Dementia to be rolled out to a range of healthcare courses at University of Brighton, University of Greenwich and Canterbury Christ Church University
Why is it important?
We think it is of the utmost importance to involve people with a diagnosis of dementia and their carers or family in the training of these trainee healthcare professionals. This programme gives the students a chance to learn from the experts on dementia – the people directly affected by the condition.
It’s a good way for them to gain knowledge first-hand of what it’s like living with dementia and the challenges they have to overcome. There are more than 67,500 people living with dementia in Kent Surrey and Sussex and it’s crucial that more people in the field of healthcare are aware of the condition.
Since the programme started in 2014, a total of 800 families in Surrey and Sussex have helped train around 1300 students to gain a better understanding of dementia.
What are the benefits?
People affected by dementia have described a range of benefits they have experienced through getting involved. They include developing confidence and new skills, opportunities for learning more about dementia and sharing that knowledge, feeling valued as well as feeling satisfaction from making a difference.
One family said:
'It’s not just about the medical side of getting a diagnosis; it’s about helping students to understand the bigger picture and the wider implications for me and my wife. It is also really important that they understand that I am still a person not just a diagnosis - that really matters.'
Students have reported that regularly meeting people living with dementia as well as carers has challenged their previous views and preconceptions. They report that they have gained knowledge of what it might be like to live with dementia, that their confidence and skills in communicating with people with dementia has improved, and that they have more awareness of the role of carers.
In addition, they feel that they are learning more about their role as health professionals in supporting families where there is a diagnosis.
Plans for the future
Time for Dementia is in the initial stages of rolling out the programme to a range of course at the University of Brighton and into Kent, so the ongoing challenge is finding enough families to take part. We also want to ensure that everyone is supported throughout their participation in Time for Dementia and that those who want to, can become involved in user involvement activities for Alzheimer’s Society and beyond.
The Time for Dementia programme is always looking for families who would like to take part. Whether you would like to join us or would just like to find out a little bit more about it, please get in touch on email@example.com or 07713 779 582.