Fellowship exchange: Sharing expertise in dementia research

Dementia researchers at Bangor University and the Amsterdam University Medical Center have collaborated on observational and statistical analysis.

Collating knowledge

Bangor University in Wales and the Amsterdam University Medical Center in the Netherlands

Dr Karlijn Joling has twice travelled from the Netherlands to Bangor University to collaborate with Professor Gill Windle.

From her background as a health scientist and epidemiologist, with a focus in caregiver mental health, Karlijn wanted the chance to apply her knowledge to a new area and learn from new colleagues.

Karlijn said:

‘Working with Gill in Bangor, I had the opportunity to develop new skills in observational data analysis and work with a multidisciplinary team that would benefit my work in the Netherlands’.

Together, their research focused on understanding the challenges people affected by dementia face, and testing possible interventions. In 2014 this included investigating caregiver resilience through a Delphi process exercise and quantitative data-analyses. 

Achievements

In 2016, Karlijn returned to Bangor for four months to work on the ‘Dementia and Imagination Project’ – a longitudinal investigation of a 12-week visual arts programme for people with dementia and their carers.

The study found the programme improved feelings of connectedness and quality of life for people living with dementia in a group of 125 people across England and Wales.

Karlijn reflected:

‘It was a very productive four months and the collaboration has been great for my career! I was able to focus on my research and submit publications, including our work on the Dementia and Imagination project’.

Professor Gill Windle has also been to the Netherlands to further develop her research with Professor Martijn Huisman. Building on their mutual interest in resilience in older age, their work explored some of the challenges around the measurement of resilience. 

The fellowship also enabled Gill to benefit from the expertise in the Netherlands, taking an advanced course in data analysis.

Gill said:

‘We produced a great publication which, I am told, has a great study design and statistical analysis that will make a strong contribution to the field! I’m particularly pleased with this as I wanted to improve my skills in statistical analysis by learning from the great statisticians at Amsterdam UMC.’ 

How the work will progress

Similar to the ‘Dementia and Imagination’ project, Professor Rose-Marie Dröes ran a visual arts programme in the Netherlands called ’Unforgettable’.

Gill said:

’Working together, we realised we had the opportunity to pool our knowledge develop something that could help people affected by dementia in both the UK and the Netherlands’.

Gill and Rose-Marie are now exploring how learnings from each of their studies could be combined to develop an intervention implementation guide for healthcare professionals. 

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