Caring for Carers: Decisions about end of life care

From the Autumn 2018 issue of Care and cure magazine, Dr Nathan Davies talks about his research about end of life care.

A close up of a couple holding hands on a table top

Meeting the expert behind the research

Tell us about yourself

My name is Dr Nathan Davies. Born and raised in a small town in south Wales, I studied psychology at Exeter before moving to London where I completed my PhD at UCL and have been here ever since.

When I’m not working you’ll likely find me in the gym, cooking up a storm in the kitchen or watching Formula One or tennis (I’m in the queue for Wimbledon most years).

What drew you to researching end of life care?

After graduating, I worked as an assistant psychologist in memory services. It really struck me how we would see a person with dementia a few times and not see them again.

I was interested to understand what happened later on, and my PhD focused on end of life care for people with
dementia. Since then, my focus has been to understand the experiences of carers and how we can use this information to improve care and services.

I’m working to find ways to support carers with the emotional and significant decisions that they have to make on behalf of the person they care for towards the end of life and in the later stages of dementia. This will produce a tool to help people with dementia take part in decision-making along with their carer.

Why is it important to support carers in making end of life decisions?

The end of life is hugely important – we all want to end our lives in a comfortable, respected and dignified manner. This topic has so often been neglected in dementia care research, but I believe that some of the best work on this subject is now coming out of the UK.

We know that families find the later stages of dementia and the end of life very difficult, with feelings of anxiety, guilt, prolonged grief and sadness. Healthcare professionals, even those with years of experience, also struggle with this topic.

The research we are doing has the potential to have a huge impact on people with dementia, carers and professionals.

What is next for you and your research?

I am enjoying leading some really compelling research projects and working closely with people with dementia and their families. I hope that my end of life decision aid project can be rolled out as a larger trial, and so potentially become routine practice to improve the lives of people affected by dementia.

I enjoy the variety of my work – one day I am speaking to groups of people affected by dementia, the next I’m presenting at a research conference or teaching students. I aspire to build my career in dementia research to make a difference to people with dementia and their families.

Research we have funded

You can read more about this research and all our funded projects on our research pages.

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