The Annual GSA Conference 2019 as Experienced by Two PhD Candidates

GSA2019The annual GSA conference is devoted to advancements in dementia-specific and other gerontological research. After a long flight, we arrived in sunny Austin, Texas. As our jetlag settled, the temperature dropped and the streets of Austin filled up with world-leading gerontology experts; we prepared ourselves for 5 days of inspiring and cultivating evidence-based interdisciplinary research. This year’s GSA Annual Scientific Meeting emphasized the power of networks. We can make a difference by sharing our knowledge, collaborating, including all stakeholders, and staying open-minded.

Together with a group of Interdem researchers , i.e. Dr. Hilde Verbeek, Prof. Martina Roes, Prof. Karin Wolf-Ostermann and Prof. Kimberly van Haistma, we addressed different approaches to quality of care in nursing homes, stressing the added value of approaching experienced quality of care as an interactive process. An aspect of quality of care is about how staff makes you feel. Observations have shown that people with dementia can be supported in fulfilling their personal preferences and secondary data has shown their need for more specialist medical care. We believe that taking time to talk to residents, their family and caregivers could support in fulfilling residents’ needs, however communication skills are an important prerequisite for this.

The importance of dementia-specific research could not be denied, as more than 500 presentations addressed this topic. From more clinical-focused studies exploring treatment options to more person-centered studies exploring ways to improve quality of life. We were intrigued by the use of modern technology to support people with dementia in their daily lives, for example with the sensory My Message screens that communicates tailored messages to residents. Another aspect that caught our attention was the importance of acknowledging and including residents with dementia themselves in research and practice. Yet, not forgetting the impact of the resident’s social network and their involvement in the resident’s daily life.

As we pack our bags, have one last TexMex dinner and enjoy the last rays of sunshine; we let all of our impressions of the past days sink in. Thank you GSA 2019, we are excited to see the future advancements within dementia- research and practice.

Linda Hoek and Katya Sion, PhD Candidates at the Living-Lab in Ageing and Long-Term Care South Limburg, Maastricht University.