Southampton Doctoral Training Centre

Providing better care by allowing people with dementia to take certain risks 

Lead investigator: Dr Ruth Bartlett
Co-investigators: Dr Rosalind Willis, Professor Julia Addington Hall, Dr Sue Green, Dr Jackie Bridges, Dr Helen Roberts
Grant type: Doctoral Training Centre
Amount: £423,121
Scientific title: Researching patient safety and risk enablement

The Southampton Doctoral Training Centre is supported by a generous donation from Malcolm Joyce in honour of his wife, Jean Joyce.  

Why did we fund this centre? Comments from our Research Network:

'Obviously this area is of substantial academic and policy interest, and further research will in the long term contribute to knowledge and good care provision.'

'This proposal has identified a set of vital ideas to investigate to give direct benefit to those affected by dementia.'

'The more that can be discovered by qualitative approaches the better as serious attempts to improve the quality [of life] for both those with dementia and their carers.'

What is a Doctoral Training Centre? 

Alzheimer's Society Doctoral Training Centres (DTC) aim to create a cluster of PhD students and clinical fellows working on themed area of dementia research. In addition to generating new knowledge on the theme, the DTCs will also provide support and training to develop the next generation of dementia research leaders

What will this DTC be investigating?

Staying safe while still allowing people to take some risks is an under-researched area within dementia care. Taking risks and managing those risks is an essential part of adult life, and one that helps people to live independently with a feeling of control.

However, it is common following a diagnosis of dementia for carers, healthcare professionals and family to want to manage those risks and keep the person with dementia safe.

While keeping someone safe is incredibly important, it is also important to balance that with giving the person with dementia the opportunity to take certain calculated risks and maintain control over aspects of their lives.

The number of people with dementia is growing in the UK, and yet this is an area that is very complex but little understood, urgently needing more research to guide health and social care policy and practice. The evidence and experience from these DTC projects will help to provide the research evidence in this area and to share that knowledge with colleagues.

What will the projects in this DTC investigate?

The DTC will fund several projects, all looking at a different aspect of this area of research, called 'risk enablement' (enabling people to take certain risks).

Some of the researchers will investigate whether the quality of life of people with a newdiagnosis of dementia can be enhanced by risk enablement; investigate how adult children of people with dementia perceive risk to their parents and enable risk; look at perceived risk in relation to end-of-life decisions, examining how decisions are made in relation to risk when wishes of the person with dementia, health and care staff and families differ.

Others will investigate situations arising in care settings, leading to future learning of colleagues and input into guidelines. This will include investigating how decisions about nutrition and hydration are made for people with advanced dementia, and investigating the processes in acute care settings of maintaining patient safety and implementation of risk enablement. 

How will this benefit people affected by dementia?

These projects will contribute largely to the understanding around balancing the safety of people with dementia with risk enablement, providing knowledge and evidence that can be implemented into policy and care practice.

By training researchers in this area, this DTC will also increase the number of researchers working in this under-researched field and equip healthcare professionals with additional knowledge and the ability to influence practice through their roles in healthcare settings.

Better understanding and practice in the area of safety and risk enablement will have an impact on the quality of life of people with dementia and their family members, through better ways to maintain a balance between safety and control over one's own life, and also through improved treatment in health and care settings.

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