At the end of March we said a fond farewell to Professor Dawn Brooker MBE as she retired, although it was more of an ‘au revoir’ as she’s still going to be working with us as an Emeritus Professor from the Autumn. In this blog we take a brief look back at Dawn’s time with the Association for Dementia Studies (ADS) and bring you up-to-date with our plans for the next phase.
The history of ADS
In 2009, the University of Worcester took the strategic decision to establish ADS in recognition that providing better dementia care and support is crucial to the health of the nation in the twenty-first century. ADS has grown from a single professorial appointment – Dawn Brooker – to a current team of 20 multi-professional staff, a steady cohort of doctoral students, honorary appointments and international visiting scholars. Critically, people living with dementia, their families and their carers inform our work at all stages, being included in research and education programmes.
ADS has an established global reputation for its excellent research into dementia care which is enabling people with dementia and their carers to live better lives. Its achievements locally, nationally and internationally have been remarkable and have been central to the transformation of care for people affected by dementia. It forms part of the University’s overall strategic mission to “make a truly transformative contribution to the lives of our students, staff and the people of our region and to make a very positive impact in society more broadly.”
Dawn’s time with ADS
ADS has flourished under the leadership of Professor Dawn Brooker MBE who is internationally recognised for her scholarship in person-centred dementia care. Dawn recognised the need to have a continued focus on working proactively at the interface between the experience of those directly affected by dementia (both the person and their carers), those developing care practice and those undertaking research to ensure real knowledge exchange between these different worldviews. This has encompassed many research and education programmes over the years, but all have to pass the acid test of whether they have the potential to improve the quality of life for those directly affected by dementia.
Early achievements included winning a bid for Worcestershire to host one of the first national Demonstrator Sites for Dementia Advisors in the UK. Dementia Advisers now form the backbone of post diagnostic support across the UK. Dawn also led the team in developing best practice in acute hospitals with Royal Wolverhampton NHS Hospitals Trust. Another early research project included investigating the causes of abuse and neglect in care homes, alongside its implications for the promotion of positive care home culture which underpinned a Panorama programme in 2014. The ALCOVE EU Research project in 2011-2013 underpinned guidance for policy makers across the EU that people had the right to an accurate diagnosis communicated sensitively and at a time when people and families could understand the implications of the diagnosis and make lifestyle changes to accommodate it. The right to a timely diagnosis is now enshrined in national dementia strategies world-wide.
Dawn has worked extensively within the care homes sector in developing practice in person-centred approaches for people living with dementia. In recent years, she has led her team in delivering two major research projects to implement reductions in anti-psychotic prescribing and to improve the care of those living with advanced dementia. She has mentored and supervised many PhD students and co-led the Alzheimer’s Society Doctoral Training Centre TAnDem which was established in partnership with the Nottingham University from 2015, providing funded PhD research studentships in the area of arts, creativity and dementia.
More recently, Dawn led the evaluation on a large JPND (Joint Programme – Neurodegenerative Disease) research programme grant to implement and evaluate the Dutch Meeting Centre model for people with dementia and their carers in the UK, Italy and Poland which completed in 2017. Since that time, she has worked with colleagues to establish a UK infrastructure for the setting up and supporting Meeting Centres. Next year should see the numbers of Meeting Centres across England, Scotland and Wales reaching 50-60 – despite the impact of Covid. This work led to University of Worcester being awarded the prestigious Times Higher Education award for Outstanding Contribution to the Local Community in 2019.
So what next for ADS?
While we’ll all miss Dawn and her leadership, we respect her decision to retire and wish her all the best for the future. We’re actively recruiting for a new Director of ADS, but in the meantime we’re very pleased to say that our own Dr Shirley Evans will be working as the Interim Director. Shirley, who is a driving force behind the Meeting Centres work, will provide a steadying hand as we enter the next phase, keeping things running but also driving momentum to push us forwards. Externally, you shouldn’t notice any difference (except Dawn’s email won’t work!), and Shirley will ensure that our new Director will find ADS in a strong position when they take over in due course. We’ll try not to be too awkward until then Shirley!!
Connect with ADS on twitter @DementiaStudies and on Facebook @adsuow