The things that have happened to me since I was diagnosed…
Hilary Doxford was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s in 2012, and since then has volunteered for the Alzheimer’s Society and for Join Dementia Research. She first became a member of the Society’s Research Network, and later a Join Dementia Research Champion. Now as a member of the World Dementia Council, she works to promote global collaboration against dementia. She travels to meetings and conferences in many different countries, often talking about what Join Dementia Research has achieved, and encouraging other countries to set up similar initiatives.
Hilary has the following advice for anyone thinking about becoming a Join Dementia Research Champion:
- Recognise your strengths and your knowledge and think how you can apply those. If you’re not sure about how you could use your experience, talk to one of the Join Dementia Research organisers (details below) and ask them what they think. There will always be a way you can contribute.
- There’s a lot you can do without necessarily having to stand up in public. Just get involved
in some simple way, even if it’s just going down to your local Memory Café and making sure that everybody there has heard about Join Dementia Research. Talk to your friends and your networks. You don’t have to do anything out of the ordinary. It’s just a topic of conversation for one day.
- Start up conversations about dementia research with the people you know, whether you think it’s good or bad, how to get people involved, and what could be done to make it better. Even if you don’t want to take part in research yourself, you can still spread the word about it.
- Public speaking is not the only communication channel for Join Dementia Research. A lot can be done through local networks, like the Hand Out Hope campaign (handouthope.today), where we are trying to get all the clinicians in memory clinics to hand out the Join Dementia Research leafet. Giving out leafets, which might only take a few minutes, is a very good a way to get information about research out to people with dementia, and importantly will give them hope again.
For more information visit: nhs.joindementiaresearch.nihr.ac.uk
Integrating Research Champions within a Trust
In recent years, the Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust has developed a number of initiatives to increase research opportunities for their staff and their patients, particularly in the field of older people’s mental health. These developments have increased the number and diversity of research studies taking place across the Trust, which has created more opportunities for staff to become principal investigators or local collaborators. In turn, this has led to a much-welcomed increase in the number of opportunities for patients and their families to take part in new drug trials and clinical studies.
- A multi-disciplinary oversight group provides a range of valuable insights and promotes buy-in from the different groups of professionals
- Senior level support for the initiative is essential, to give the lead the authority to ask each clinical team to put forward a candidate for the Research Champion role
- A motivated and supportive leader is essential to hold the vision, and encourage staff to sign-up and stay engaged
- Research Champions need training at the start to build their confidence in talking about research and ongoing support to manage any changes and maintain their commitment
- Peer-to-peer communication is an effective way to recruit Research Champions and provide informal support
- Becoming a Research Champion can be the first step on a new career path, particularly for nurses – it is important to find ways to nurture and develop their research skills
Research Champion Joanne Fenwick