My passion for dementia research

GailMy passion for dementia research commenced over thirty years ago when I started work as a research assistant on a project looking at the effects of environment upon people with severe dementia who were resident on UK long stay hospital wards.  Previous to this I had worked for around ten years as an occupational therapist in mental health services including care of older people.  Starting work as a researcher was a revelation; I was being asked to read papers and I can remember thinking that I wished that I had been aware of some of what I was reading when in practice!

Being part of that project was a privilege but also in many ways a shock; it shone a light on the treatment of people with dementia at the time.  Care is not perfect now but in those days it was truly awful for some.  Staff (nursing, medical and AHP) were poorly informed at best and working in such settings was certainly not a career choice for the majority.  Through the project we aimed to get messages out about how environments for people with severe dementia might be readily changed for the better and the papers are still referenced today.

From that experience I realised that research was the career path I wanted to pursue, even though I did return to the health service for three years in the 1990’s. I retreated back to research when I was clearly given the message that as a health services manager that research was not my business! How things have changed for the better.

I was then employed at the Nuffield Institute for Health, Leeds University to work on research in so called ‘priority services’ which included mental health, care of the elderly and learning disabilities. Dementia associated research included an examination of respite services and I also completed my PhD during that time.

Following on from this I moved, over time to different roles and settings working mainly on research concerned with older people, focussing once again on dementia in latter years. My decision to move to the Centre for Applied Dementia Studies, University of Bradford was driven by my desire to complete the circle; finish my academic career where it had commenced, with dementia. My research career has been both challenging and extremely satisfying and I would like to think that I have made a small contribution to improving the lives of people living with dementia.

 Professor Gail Mountain