My passion for dementia research

UOW_1959Dementia has been part of my life forever. I was born when my grand-father already had dementia and, in my early years, he was my constant companion. He had lots of love and time to spend with a boisterous but lonely little girl. He always called me Joan (my mum’s name) and would play endless rounds of “Pat a cake, pat a cake….” I loved him. When he died suddenly (probably of pneumonia I think now) all my aunties said that it was “a blessing, him being how he was”! I was furious with them. They obviously didn’t know how nice our life was! That sense of fury at the dismissal of someone’s life simply because they have dementia has fired my work as a clinical psychologist and as a researcher ever since.

I heard Tom Kitwood speak at a PSIGE conference in 1988. At that time, in the scientific literature, the emotional and psychological needs of people living with dementia were not considered important. When Tom spoke about “malignant social psychology” and “dialectics of dementia”, it was as if someone had shone a bright light on the lives of the people that I worked with day in day out. This inspired my PhD which focussed on improving the quality of care for people living with dementia. When Tom died suddenly in 1998 I found myself to be an “expert” on Dementia Care Mapping and Person-Centred Care. I didn’t feel like an expert but I did feel that I needed to do my best to carry on Tom’s work. 20 years on, I hope that I have served his legacy well through the publication of an edited edition of his seminal text Dementia Reconsidered Revisited: The Person Still Comes First.

Another important inspiration has been the international sharing and collaboration in dementia research. I remember getting a hand written letter (pre-internet) from M. Powell-Lawton from Philadelphia in 1995 inviting me to speak at a conference in the US. I have been blessed to learn from the world’s best researchers in all parts of Europe, Australia, Japan and North America. The generosity of spirit inspires me every day and is embodied in INTERDEM.

Professor Dawn Brooker PhD CPsychol (clin) AFBPsS

Director of the Association for Dementia Studies. University of Worcester, UK

Association for Dementia Studies – University of Worcester