My name’s Amelia Abbott and I am the clinical dementia research champion for the Memory Assessment & Research Centre. My role is to promote MARC research, increase referrals, forge stronger relationships with dementia services and engage with the public. This Dementia Action Week (a national initiative to engage the public to take action against dementia) was a perfect opportunity to promote MARC research and enable people with dementia to participate in clinical trials. I was fortunate enough to visit with MARC study participants Larry and Rita who explained to me all about their experiences of participating in a clinical trial at MARC – the full list of audio clips from our interview together can be found here: https://soundcloud.com/user-649696235/sets/larry-ritas-journey-on-a-marc-clinical-trial
Following the success of the Romsey Dementia Action Group (Romdag)’s annual Demfest (dementia festival) established in 2015, many local groups have also engaged with the notion of providing a fun-filled, informative and inspirational day to celebrate the lives of those living with dementia and provide further support to those who need it. This year, on behalf of MARC, I attended three dementia festivals in three days.
Day one. Petersfield’s first dementia festival was a hub of information, advice and support from a range of services around the Petersfield area. It was a fantastic opportunity to engage with people living with dementia, family members or friends who wished to learn more about dementia. Several previous participants in MARC stopped by the stand to say hello and catch up on MARC activities and members of staff.
Day two. Southampton dementia festival in Palmerston park I was joined by Isabel (research nurse at MARC). It was another fantastic opportunity to meet the public and discuss everything dementia and research accompanied by music and a range of activities in the band stand area. This festival was also a great chance to network and meet other services who provide care, support and advice to people living with dementia. I was invited up on the ‘stage’ or bandstand to be interviewed about MARC and my current role. I admit, public speaking is not my favourite pastime, but it was certainly an opportunity to tell attendees about our services. Likewise, the Alzheimer’s Society were filming various attendees/services about their experiences at the festival. Again, a slightly unnerving but welcome chance to talk about the benefits of getting involved in research and the importance of people with dementia having a voice in dementia research. The films may be available nationally or locally through various media channels – watch this space!
Day three. Reminiscence in the park, Royal Victoria Country park. This event was slightly different, perhaps a little more low key than the previous two events, but equally great for networking with various teams. I met several members of the public who were interested in getting involved in MARC studies, and several care homes and services who wished to become more engaged with the research MARC conduct. Also, as chance would have it, one of our top referrers also attended the event providing the perfect opportunity to thank him for all of his support. Although I needed a blanket from the car and a brolly, I had a great time learning more about other services in the Hampshire area and building relationships with them to provide people with dementia in Hampshire a well-rounded and supportive county to live in. I also treated myself to a homemade jar of chutney.
Dementia festivals are an incredible opportunity to celebrate the wonderful support for people living with dementia from their local communities. I thoroughly enjoyed my experiences at each of the three dementia festivals in three days and welcome the possible avenues and relationships that I, on MARC’s behalf, look forward to pursuing.