Last week I was fortunate enough to be asked to speak at a meeting being held in Wakefield: the National Institute of Health Research Patient, Carer and Public Involvement away day. They were developing their strategy for the year ahead.
I attended with Sarah Daniels, Dementia Research Project Manager, as a lay member of Join Dementia Research. We were there to promote the forthcoming national launch of Join Dementia Research which is taking place on Tuesday 24th February. Both of us are involved with the launch down in London on that day – more to follow next week.
We decided that I’d go first with a talk about my journey and difficulty finding research:
I have a vested interest in research being carried out in the field of dementia. Being diagnosed with a progressive, deteriorating terminal illness focuses the mind on the here and now. If you were to ask those living with dementia what areas they deem to be most important within research, you would be presented with a myriad of options – but none more important than ‘a cure’ to this most stubborn medical enigma. I’m not naïve enough to think that if a cure were found tomorrow that it would mend those parts of my brain that are broken, but it would rid my daughters and all the generations below me of that ‘inevitability’ that a diagnosis brings.
I spoke of the post code lottery that appears to exist in whether patients are offered research at the point of diagnosis. No clinician on my journey broached the subject of research – I had to go looking for it. I knew from my attendance at the Royal College of Physicians, where I met researchers, that they found it difficult to recruit volunteers, yet here I was having difficulty finding research – crazy.
Join Dementia Research’ is all set to address these issues, as it’s got the potential to become a ‘one-stop shop’ for researchers and willing volunteers. Now, clinicians will have no excuse for not encouraging patients to take part in research. Where once they would have to assess their applicability, now they will only need to hand over a Join Dementia Research leaflet and offer words of encouragement. This will empower the public sign up for themselves.I want to promote and encourage people to register their interest, but also encourage health professionals to approach and encourage their patients to register as well.
We also need to encourage those diagnosed with early onset to state in their Lasting Power of Attorney the advantage of documenting their willingness to take part in research once they lose mental capacity, if they so wish – to talk to their family about their wish. This would take away any ethical dilemmas faced by families in the future and give researchers access to those who are difficult to find at present.
The war on cancer and the amount of funding given to cancer research has seen a revolution in treatments being available – a cancer diagnosis is no longer the death sentence is was 40 years ago. We need the same to happen in the field of dementia research and Join Dementia Research will give us the tool to be able to bring together researchers with willing volunteers.
After Sarah delivered her presentation we were met with many questions – always a good sign. It evoked dialogue and discussion and they invited us to stay for lunch – another good sign and very nice too – so it was a very worthwhile visit.
More on the launch next week………….