Janine Lane is a current MSc in Dementia student and a Specialist Nurse Practitioner for Dementia, one of several roles she carries out,.
We sat down with Janine to find out what motivated her to formalise her dementia knowledge, how she fits studying into her busy life, and how she feels the course will impact her career.
Tell us about yourself - what led to your interest in dementia?
Along with being a Specialist Nurse Practitioner for Dementia, I'm a District Nurse and Queens Nurse working with Your Healthcare CIC, Nine Health CIC, Nine Health Global, and the Skills Training Institute of Asia (STIA). I'm also the co-founder of a charity for people with dementia and their families, linked to the Jian Ai Project Shanghai, China.
My interest in dementia grew after I started working in the community and became increasingly aware of a large void in the support that people with dementia and their families received following diagnosis and discharge from the memory clinics and into the care of general practice. All too frequently these people would slip off the radar of primary health and social care until they were at or nearing crisis point in either their health, social care, or both.
Working in Your Healthcare CIC I was in the very privileged position to be able to propose that we develop a service that could bridge the gap between discharge from the memory clinic and a potential crisis at a later date. We do this by supporting not just the person with dementia but also their family/carer, taking primary care to them and helping them in the navigation of a very complex health and social care system.
I was also aware of the lack of knowledge and understanding with regards to the complexity of dementia care amongst health and social care professionals. As part of my role in Your Healthcare I have been able to write and deliver training for frontline professionals in order to raise their awareness and enable them to be more effective in their care of people with dementia.
My role in Your Healthcare opened up the opportunity for me to get involved with a partnership organisation which extended my work into China, where health and social care - especially related to dementia - lags at least 40-50 years behind the U.K.
Can you tell us more about your charity?
I am Co-Founder and International Dementia Advisor for a Family Support Group for People with Dementia and their Families in Shanghai. The charitable support group is linked to the Jian Ai Project, which is funded by the Chinese Communist Party. The district in which the Jian Ai project is situated in is very proud to have been awarded ‘Dementia Friendly’ status in 2018.
The group was founded in October 2018, held its first meeting in November 2018, and currently supports 188 families in Shanghai who are living with a person who has dementia.
Through the social media platform WeChat, peer support is offered frequently with members starting each day sharing information about the weather forecast and the most appropriate clothes to wear for the day, an inspirational quote, a piece of music, a brain teaser, and a short exercise video.
Throughout the day members will write questions about care or medical issues that they may be encountering. Other members will offer advice and support whenever they can, based on their own lived experiences. As the International Dementia Advisor, I am able to give more detailed information and advice.
Group members are invited to attend a monthly meeting where the whole family,including the person with dementia, are encouraged to attend. The monthly meetings are fully supported by volunteers who have received training in dementia care. Therefore, if a member with dementia is becoming restless, they are fully equipped to be able to support that person away from the main meeting and engage them in a meaningful activity.
The format of the monthly meeting is to initially begin with a welcoming warm-up activity. This is then followed with an educational health talk, usually related to dementia but not exclusively if there has been a request for information on a particular subject.
Members are then given the opportunity to ask questions about any issues they may be experiencing or to share any good news stories. There is then a short exercise programme, followed by the members enjoying lunch together.
What motivated you to study for an MSc in Dementia online?
My motivation to study for an MSc in Dementia online is mainly my awareness that whilst I may have a lot of knowledge and experience in dementia care and have built myself a strong reputation in the U.K. and in China, if I am really going to be able to "make a difference" I need to formalise my knowledge through academia.
I chose to study online as it is my intention to return to China as the U.K. project lead for a company called Nine Health Global as soon as the time is right and therefore, I will be able to continue my studies.
What work do you undertake with Nine Health Global?
Nine Health Global is the international arm of Nine Health CIC, working predominantly in The People’s Republic of China developing Cognitive Well-Being Centres and AI to improve the detection and diagnosis of dementia.
The Cognitive Well-Being Centres are being designed to sit within the heart of the community and will provide a welcoming environment for anyone, at any age or ability, to come to receive health education and join in with activities that are sociable and provide cognitive and physical stimulation.
These activities will be accessible to all ages, as research clearly supports that mixing all ages can be hugely beneficial to cognitive stimulation and also offers unique opportunities for children to learn from elders.
Working as a consortium the centres will provide training for families and carers using material that has been written and developed in China by the Skills Training Institute of Asia (STIA), for which I am a content advisor. STIA have developed more than 300 videos for online training to date, of which 30 have U.K. accreditation with CPD. All of the training is written to the highest standards and in line with international best practice.
My overall mission is to improve health and social care for not just people with dementia and their familes/carers, but also general elderly care both here in the U.K. and China through education and raising standards of care.
With a schedule as busy as yours, how do you balance studying with your job and home life?
I guess it would be fair to say that I am a little bit of a ‘workaholic’. My primary work is with Your Healthcare CIC, which is a full-time post, Monday to Friday. My contracted hours are 37.5hrs but realistically I probably work above these hours on a weekly basis.
For the other projects that I am working on with Nine Health Global, STIA, and my charity I need to find on average 8-10hrs per week to meet all of their commitments. Oddly enough, working across time zones actually makes this easier as I can have conference calls before 08.00hrs in the morning, which is before I start my day with Your Healthcare.
On average I am spending 15-20hrs studying each week. For me it is incredibly helpful that the course material is released each week on the Friday at lunch time. This enables me to have an initial look at the course content late afternoon/early evening on the Friday and plan my weekend, which is when I do most of my studying.
I am a great list writer, so I plan out what is required for the week’s study - breaking it down to what I want to achieve on Saturday and Sunday. This allows me to plan when I am going to do something with my family and friends, which is usually going out for a meal, going to a garden centre, shopping, or having a walk.
Relaxation is also important for me. I start every day (Monday to Friday) at 06.00hrs swimming for 30 minutes. I have waterproof earphones so I get plugged into some music, usually Mark Knopfler. It is pure relaxation and I guess my equivalent to yoga or meditation. Most weekends I also try to find 30-60 minutes pottering in my garden, which I also find very relaxing.
What’s the support on the course like for busy professionals such as yourself?
The support is very good. From the beginning we had a Module Leader named as our main point of contact. She is very quick to respond to any messages and is very encouraging in her comments when students post material in the discussion groups.
The online learning platform, Canvas, is also very clear, with links to personal supervision for psychology and social work should these be needed.
Generally, it feels like there is a good understanding that the students, including myself, have very busy professional lives alongside the course.
What’s been your experience thus far with your tutors and course mates?
I think that we have very quickly become a cohesive group. Trust appears to have developed swiftly allowing people to share their experiences, some of which are very personal, which is enabling us to all learn from one another.
It's great that the academics and tutors have their own clinical experiences to share,, which resonate with our own clinical practice and experience.
How have you found studying for the course alongside working during the pandemic?
There are undoubtedly additional work pressures due to the pandemic, but actually, studying gives me a different focus and acts as a welcome distraction.
The Module One course material is particularly pertinent at present, given the long-term effects of a prolonged lockdown. Day cares and other support groups remaining closed continues to have a devastating effect on people with dementia and their families.
Eight months ago, the idea of taking dementia care from personhood to citizenship felt achievable but the pandemic has set dementia care back significantly. I hope by building on my knowledge and having more confidence to "speak out" I can keep dementia at the forefront of discussions at a level where I can influence and try and make change happen.
Are you able to apply what you’re learning on the course in your current workplace?
Yes, I am able to apply my learning to my practice. It gives me the confidence to be vocal and address the most immediate concerns that there are with regards to dementia care, and to push for change to happen.
How do you feel the course will impact your career in future?
I think the greatest impact that the course will have on my career in the future is that I will be able to evidence my experience and knowledge more formally, which will hopefully strengthen my platform to bring about change through the projects that I am currently working on, especially in China.
The course is also a great opportunity to help me develop the research element of the project with Nine Health Global and the development of Cognitive Well-Being Centres in China.
We will be gathering data to look at reducing the risks with regards to developing dementia, as well as slowing decline through a wide range of activities, including interventions such as cognitive stimulation therapy; the use of virtual therapies and AI; exercise and health promotion; plus long term condition management and education.
What advice would you give someone like you – who’s working and juggling other commitments – if they’re considering the course?
My first bit of advice is get yourself enrolled and "do it" – the MSc Dementia is a fantastic programme that will challenge your thinking and enable you to grow in your career.
Being organised is essential, as the course and your studying needs to become part of a new routine that fits in with any other commitments that you may have.
I think having an idea of how much time you need to dedicate to each commitment is important and that you try to stick to the amount of time you have allowed and don’t let one commitment suddenly require significantly more time than you have planned to the detriment of your other commitments.
Having a dedicated study place is also important. For me, this is a log cabin where I can be away from the hubbub of a busy house and I can have all my resources at hand.
Making time for yourself to relax and do fun things with family and friends is also incredibly important. This for me is best achieved by ensuring that I plan my studying well at the weekend and also schedule the fun activity that I am going to do.
Family life is also very important to me, so mealtimes are absolutely sacred, and we never fail to sit down as a little family every day when we are then able to catch up on everyone’s day and what we have all been up to.
My final piece of advice is – enjoy the course! It is your opportunity to grow as a person and hopefully bring about change in the future.
Successful completion of our online MSc in Dementia offers health, social work and social care professionals the potential to specialise in the field of dementia and formalise their knowledge. We are also keen to help develop specialist knowledge and skills in people who currently volunteer in the field. You can start the course in January, May or September: