Student bursaries for career development

Care and cure magazine - Winter 2015

Alzheimer's Society bursaries have enabled four dementia research PhD students in Northern Ireland to take part in an international training programme on ageing, organised by the Centre for Ageing Research and Development in Ireland (CARDI). 

The research interests of the bursary recipients reflected the diverse range of dementia research, from the importance of design and architecture in creating dementia-friendly environments to investigating better ways to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease. 

Bridgeen McCloskey is researching the use of end-of-life medication for people with dementia. 'Research has shown that people with dementia approaching the end of life often receive suboptimal end-of-life care and as a result have been referred to as the "disadvantaged dying",' she explains. 'The optimal use of medications in end of life patients, especially in those dying from conditions other than cancer, remains mostly unexplored.'

Nicola Quinn, pictured above, is investigating whether there is any association between the progression of Alzheimer's disease and state of the retina, which is at the back of the eye. She says, 'Since the retina is an extension of the brain, invaluable information could be found that could help to diagnose Alzheimer's disease before pathology is found in the brain, giving patients a better prognosis and thus a better quality of life.'

Another bursary recipient, Pamela Topping, is investigating design and colour in the building of dementia-friendly environments. 'My journey in dementia research started with my first job as a nurse. My passion was working with people who had a diagnosis of dementia. However due to a back injury that forced me to leave my job, I returned to education and graduated as a designer,' she explains.

'It was at this time I realised how little progress had been made within the discipline of design that would directly empower and support the person with dementia in the built environment. I became involved in dementia design research as my nursing skills gave me a greater understanding of what living with dementia meant and the empathy and compassion is translated into my design thinking.'

Attending the international training programme gave the PhD students the opportunity to understand more about dementia as a whole. Nicola says, 'It was great to hear about all the different approaches people are taking in their journey of researching dementia. It has given me thorough knowledge on the background of dementia and also gave me research ideas I can implement in my own work.'

For Bridgeen, a talk given by a person living with dementia was particularly interesting. She says, 'Hearing this person's experience gave me a greater understanding of the problems people with dementia face and how important research in this area is to improve the lives of those living and dying with dementia.'