BLOG – INTERDEM Academy Masterclass “Raising the Standard”

The INTERDEM Academy Masterclass “Raising the Standard” held on the 21st of October during the 2014 edition of the Alzheimer Europe Conference in Glasgow was a great experience and offered the perfect opportunity to exchange and brush up our research skills, meet colleagues in the field of psychosocial dementia research and share experiences in an international classroom.

The content of the lectures was very applicable to our own PhD projects. First of all, it was reassuring to hear that according to prof. Jill Manthorpe, in-depth interviews or focus groups are a very valuable addition to the more mainstream quantitative methods. It is a pity that qualitative methods are often undervalued, as these are a great way to learn more about ‘why’ and ‘how’, and not just ‘what’ happens; these constitute a more direct representation of people’s experiences, knowledge and feelings.

Secondly, the focus on the importance of early implementation of psychosocial interventions during the talk of prof. Myrra Vernooij-Dassen was innovative and inspiring. When an intervention is already implemented during the research process, it has a better chance of succeeding after the evaluation period and is more likely to reach and support the people that need it the most. Moreover, the argument given during the lecture of prof. Bob Woods that an RCT might not always be the best choice to evaluate the effect of a psychosocial intervention was an eye opener to us, since other conferences often portray RCTs as being the ‘golden standard’.

The next lecture of prof. Esme Moniz-Cook focused on outcome measures that are currently being used in psychosocial research and how to overcome difficulties in selecting the proper outcome measure for a specific concept, which was a very nice opportunity to discuss the difficulties concerning definitions of constructs. What is quality of life? Or caregiver burden? And how do we measure it? Many questionnaires are designed to measure these concepts, therefore it is important to construct clear definitions and to reach consensus among international researchers.

The lecture given by prof. Martin Orrell about the comparison between different designs and control groups was also very useful for the development of new research projects. The explained pros and cons for each approach can really help you make a well-informed decision, possibly increasing the chances of finding results that truly fit your research question.

Altogether, it was a very interesting and informative meeting in a friendly atmosphere, whilst at the same time providing plenty of opportunity to build an international network for promising academic collaborations in the future. We are definitely looking forward to the next INTERDEM Academy Masterclass!

Rosalie van Knippenberg (MSc), Lizzy Boots (MSc), Alieske Dam (Msc), Joany Millenaar (Msc), Liselot Kerpershoek (Msc)

Researchers at Alzheimer Centre Limburg / MheNS, Maastricht University, The Netherlands