MSc Dementia Programme Director Dr Liz Price and graduate Catherine answer your most-asked questions about dementia. This includes why the field is important, career opportunities, and how this online Master’s course will give you the tools to maintain the wellbeing and dignity of patients living with dementia.
[MUSIC PLAYING] - Anybody who reads the paper, reads the new-- watches the news, listens to the radio will recognize that dementia is and is becoming more so a huge public concern. And I think, again, the press and popular media would have us believe that dementia is this kind of tide of illness that is about to overtake us all. And the likelihood is that lots of us will get a diagnosis of dementia as we age.
But one of the things-- one of the things we do on the program is look at contemporary research, look at what some of the recent developments are in dementia, and not just kind of take them for granted. So although we know lots of people, for example, are going to get dementia as they age, we ask, well, why is that? Why is there a sudden legislative and policy-driven focus on dementia?
I think last week, probably everybody here will know there was a big piece in the news, for example, about a new drug that can help to slow down the onset of Alzheimer's disease. And again, at first glance you think, that is absolutely amazing. And if they could cure it, how even more amazing that would be.
Honestly, I think I'll eat my hat if we ever get a cure for Alzheimer's disease because dementia and Alzheimer's even itself is lots of different things. Everybody experiences it differently. Everybody has-- the things that cause it are different in all sorts of different types of dementia, of which there are many types.
And so to answer the question directly, that is one of the recent developments in the study of dementia. We have now potentially a drug that will slow down the onset of Alzheimer's disease. But the questions we would ask were, well, what does that actually mean in the study of dementia?
For some people who have a recent diagnosis, it might help them to some degree, and we're not sure what that degree will be as yet. But for other people who are further on in their journey through dementia, further on into the condition, it'll probably be no help to them whatsoever. So whilst the public focus is consistently on curing dementia, we need to think about how we care for people, how we support people better living with the condition as well.
And so I think last week's news is really contentious because for me, it shifts the-- shifts the focus away from how we support all these millions of people with this condition to a relatively small number of people who may be newly diagnosed, who hopefully will hugely benefit from this. But as I say, this is what we do on the program. We pull apart the things that are happening in the dementia field. We ask questions of them. We kind of trouble taken for granted assumptions about what it means to have dementia, what it means to treat and support people living with dementia.
For me, the advice would be pretty simple, really, and that would be to work with and to listen to people living with dementia. They're the experts in this condition. They know what it's like. And they can help-- only working with and listening to people living with dementia will enable you to understand actually what dementia is like.
Obviously come and do this course, because what the course will do will help to underpin and further develop whatever existing knowledge, skills, and training you have. But because of the relationship that we share with our colleagues on our Dementia Advisory Group, you can be confident that what underpins your studies here on this program are experts living with dementia, so people diagnosed with dementia, and those people caring for and supporting them as well.
So for me, it does seem a bit cliched, Harrison. But listening to people living with the condition is the key way to understand what this condition means and how it impacts on people.
- People with dementia have until recently received a very second-rate level of care, particularly within the health service. And so we've got some wonderful care homes in this country that really do a good job with people with dementia, but we've also got some really poor ones.
And unfortunately, hospitals notoriously don't know how to treat people that are living with dementia. They don't know what to do with them when they come in. And often, people are very confused, very frightened. And it's really important that we get the message out to health care as to what we can do to improve the care of people who are living with dementia.
And it's not only within the health service. It's in the community as well. We've seen-- the projects that I'm doing for my PhD is all around improving conversations on end of life, to find out what it is that people want so that they can be recorded and held until such a time that they're needed.
Up until now, those conversations just don't happen, and people will die with anxiety and fear, and their carers will be confused and burdened because we haven't managed to find that out. So this is why the field of dementia studies is so important, because we only have one chance to get this right for people, so we need to start doing it now.
- Dementia studies at this level, as well at this master's level is particularly important because I think this program targets a certain range of individuals. So it's people like Catherine who have huge amounts of practice experience and who have the ability to make those changes that Catherine's talking about, to be able to influence other people. And what a lot of our students and past students have said to us is that what the program gives them is a kind of academic authenticity really to enable them to do that, to go and make those changes.
We have a range of people across the professional spectrum. So nurses such as Catherine. We've had consultant gerontologists, occupational therapists, social workers, psychiatric nurses, and also people who've cared for people living with dementia in a personal capacity as well. So a whole range of different people with different experiences, but all of whom have the potential to actually make a difference in the field, to change the way that dementia is perceived socially and managed and supported for people.
People, as I say, have come onto the program with a whole range of different experiences, which isn't really an answer. More of a description. So we would expect you to have some experience of working with people with dementia.
But again, it can be in a variety of different contexts. So you don't have to be a consultant geriatrician to come on the course or anything near. You have to have some experience, some interest, some knowledge, and some awareness of the experience of living with dementia. And that may be in a professional context. It may be in a personal context.
If you don't feel that or you've got questions about whether you feel your experience fits, then get in touch with us and we can set up a quick Teams meeting and discuss that in person. We're always here to answer questions.
It's impossible to say on a general basis because everyone's experience is different. If you have a background of working in dementia, working in older people services, or you have personal experience of dementia as well or instead, then it's very likely that you'll have the right sort of experience to come onto the course. And the amount of experience people have, some people have very little. Some people like Catherine have a lot.
But what we find is that that creates a very particular learning environment in which everyone can learn from each other. People who've been in the field for lots of years will be very experienced, but on the other hand they may be so used to doing things a certain way that it's hard to change. Other people who have less experience and perhaps feel a little bit intimidated by some of our more experienced students needn't because they bring a fresh perspective to things.
What we do every week on a Thursday usually with our first module is have a weekly webinar. And I'm amazed just how much, very selfishly, I learn each week when we have those sessions. And people bring a massive range of experience to those webinars.
And I think that first module is where you learn such a lot about each other, and people are very willing to share their experience as well. So don't be intimidated by other students. If you're not sure about whether or not your particular experience profile fits, then please get in touch. Send me an email. I'm more than happy to discuss people's individual circumstances.
I think a PhD is one of them, and Catherine is living proof that that can happen. As I say, some of our recent graduates have gone on to become-- to engage with admirable nurses. I think what people find is that whatever career path they're on, the course can accelerate that for them.
What it doesn't give you is professional registration, so you don't suddenly become a nurse or a doctor by doing this course. What you do become is someone who I think could reasonably be described as a specialist in dementia studies. And I'm making a distinction there between being an expert, which I'm sure none of us are, and a specialist, somebody who actually specializes in this knowledge, in this field. So depending on your present career structure, it can accelerate that.
A couple of our students have completely changed career path in the context of having finished the course. Two in particular, one person in America who has recently done that. Another person who's just about to graduate hopefully has done exactly the same thing because they've recognized, I think, that the careers they were in didn't fulfill that person-centered imperative that we were talking about earlier, and that their new career path does that. And I think what they've said is that they've kind of known that for a while, but that the course has given them the confidence to make a change, to kind of be that change, if you like, to use another cliche.
- Now I think that pretty much covers it, but what I would say is that even if you decide not to change your career path, doors suddenly open to you and more people come to ask you questions. Obviously, my career path is a little bit on hold at the moment because of doing the PhD. But even so, I've been invited to meetings with major care home providers that are asking me to do projects and various other things. So it doesn't mean that you have to change your job, but it does mean that other things will open up for you.
- I think students-- I've had a lot of experience of face-to-face teaching and learning, and increasingly now in a digital sense. And my sense is that students actually get more support online because there's an expectation that they will have a degree of trepidation. And all students I think coming onto a master's program, it's a scary thing to do. It's a massive thing to do in your life.
But we recognize that and I think we support people really well. And our students advisor team is second to none, I think. It sits slightly outside of the standard university support processes and is specialized in supporting students who work only online.
I think I would just say come and try us out. It's an experience that as I get further on in my career, I hadn't anticipated working in a digital context at all, and now I'm a 100% complete convert to it. I don't believe that students need to be in a lecture hall to have a quality learning experience. Not at all. I don't believe you need to be physically in a university to experience and benefit from the support that university provides. It can all be done digitally and it can all be done conveniently in an online context.
I think we offer stellar amounts of student support. And hopefully-- again, I'm completely biased, but hopefully our student body would be able to back that up.
- I would not have been able to done this course if it hadn't been online because I don't live anywhere near Hull. And I didn't have to go to Hull at all for the course, apart from when I graduated. But I do consider that I had the whole experience, even though it was online. And the support was amazing from everybody. It couldn't have been better