19 Aug 2020
Research Assistant Lauren King hopes that through CHeBA’s COGNISANCE Project we will achieve global impact on the quality of dementia care and available support services, particularly in those countries where dementia research and support remain quite limited.
How did you get into researching the ageing brain?
At university, I worked in a number of voluntary and paid research assistant roles on projects running in the experimental psychology department. I really enjoyed the systematic approach of research design and implementation whilst working on these projects.
Did you experience a ‘defining moment’ which led you to this field?
After working in acute care settings in different services in the UK and as an assistant psychologist conducting research with clinical populations, I realised I loved working with people too. Undoubtedly for me, one of the notable things about being involved in research is the participants.
The opportunity to meet the individuals during the recruitment process who are the intended population we wish to support with our research outcomes, is humbling and inspiring
I am also passionate about making a positive difference to public health issues through research. These facets combined galvanised my interest in research in a way I had not anticipated. I particularly enjoy the implementation of research from a systemic and person-centred perspective, as well as considering the collaboration of service user involvement from the beginning, all the way through to knowledge translation and dissemination.
Do you have any personal interests or activities which are protective behaviours against cognitive decline?
For the last four years I have been vegetarian and I certainly believe it has assisted me in encouraging a balanced diet which is fundamentally important for better brain health. In terms of exercise - another protective factor for cognitive decline - I love being outside in nature hiking. Being originally from the UK, Australia’s beautiful terrain has more than ever motivated my passion for hiking and being outdoors. I consistently enjoy an active lifestyle beyond hiking and have been a professional dancer for over a decade. I believe that maintaining my passions outside of work has been important in terms of protecting against cognitive decline. I do also enjoy spending time with supportive friends and socialisation is considered a protective factor in itself!
What are you currently researching?
I am currently assisting with CHeBA’s COGNISANCE project which aims to improve the dementia diagnostic process and post-diagnostic support. Our objectives are to co-design and deliver print or online toolkits in partnership with people with dementia, family care partners and health care professionals.
Why is your research important?
The premise of COGNISANCE is to include key stakeholders: people living with dementia, care partners, and health practitioners, throughout the illness process from diagnosis to supporting patients after diagnosis. This project is one of the first of its kind in terms of key stakeholder engagement in enhancing the experience of diagnosis and post diagnostic support on a global level.
Our research is important because we are able to give a voice to people who are living with dementia as well as their care partners in terms of the process around seeking help and receiving support.
The final stages of the project will involve developing a toolkit and running an awareness campaign for positive wellbeing. By doing so, we hope to address practitioner attitude, practice and patient stigma. Currently, patients and families have limited access to helpful, valid advice so an empirically supported toolkit would be of great use. This will allow patients and families to feel more confident about discussing aspects of their care plans along with future plans with practitioners. This is a necessity and I am fortunate to be involved in such worthwhile work.
What do you love about working for CHeBA and what you are doing?
I think one of the nicest things I’ve realised about CHeBA is how warm, engaging, and helpful the team is. The collegial support has been amazing. The project I am working on will provide solid information for practitioners and will have a positive real-life impact for people suffering dementia and their families. One particular strength of the project that I really enjoy being involved with is the empowerment component of our campaign; this is undeniably a stand out feature and makes it all the more worthwhile for me if we can directly positively influence the health and social care people receive when facing a life-changing diagnosis of dementia, especially on a global level.
What is the ultimate hope you have for your research?
The ultimate hope for us is that we help to improve the diagnostic experience and post-diagnostic support services offered to people at extremely challenging times in their lives. As an outcome of the project, my hope is for people to feel more informed about their care and that practitioners are able to offer best practice. COGNISANCE is a global collaborative project with five other countries. Dementia and the process of diagnosis is part of governments’ key strategies and national frameworks to improve care. Further research in this domain is essential and by developing a toolkit and campaign in each country, we can hopefully generate significant global impact to improve the diagnostic experience and post diagnostic support people receive.
This interview was undertaken during the COVID-19 self-isolation period. Lauren King found that having video calls over dinner with her family and friends supported her mental resilience and kept her feeling socially connected while physically isolated.
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Lauren King is a Research Assistant at CHeBA within the Co-Designing Dementia Diagnosis and Post Diagnostic Care (COGNISANCE) Project, which aims to work collaboratively with dementia patients, carers, and healthcare professionals to deliver useful print and online support toolkits. Lauren completed a Bachelor of Psychology Honours and a Masters of Science, Research Methods at the University of Liverpool, England.