28 Jan 2022
Helping people with dementia and their care partners move forward and live positively after a diagnosis of dementia is what drives Nora Wong, Research Officer with the Cognisance consortium. Nora hopes that her research will challenge negative stereotypes and lead to better post-diagnostic support for people living with dementia.
How did you first get into research?
Students enrolled in selected undergraduate psychology courses are offered the opportunity to volunteer for psychological research studies in exchange for partial course credit. This was my favourite pastime as an undergraduate psychology student at University of New South Wales and cemented by interest to work in research.
Did you experience a ‘defining moment’ which led you to this field?
My defining moment was the day I witnessed my partner’s 90-year-old grandmother move into an aged care facility. At the time she was in good physical health, but her dementia symptoms had become worse. The year prior, her daughter who was her full-time carer had passed away. In those lonely days without her daughter, she grew more anxious and it wasn’t long before she started to forget people’s names and places she had visited.
She has since passed away but the day she moved into the aged care facility was a day of immense pain for the family.
Do you have any personal interests or activities which are protective behaviours against cognitive decline?
One of my favourite hobbies is to discover new home improvement projects. Over the last few years I have dabbled in restoring old furniture for myself and family members. Physical activity is understood to be protective against cognitive decline and I am a strong advocate of bushwalking which I enjoy with friends. I eat a healthy dose of fruits and vegetables and for the future, my plans are to volunteer more and remain socially connected for my own brain health.
What are you currently researching?
I am currently working on a research project called COGNISANCE. The project aims to improve the way in which a diagnosis of dementia is communicated and the support that people with dementia and care partners receive following that diagnosis. My Research Officer role is to facilitate collaboration with our research partners in 10 universities across 5 countries and ensure the project remains within scope, on time and within budget.
Why is your research important?
We know that people with dementia and their family care partners are often dissatisfied with the process of getting a diagnosis and may also receive limited, if any, post-diagnostic support. This situation becomes even more problematic because there is limited availability or knowledge about post-diagnostic support that may help people with dementia and their families cope, compensate or even improve symptoms and issues that arise in dementia.
Dementia can happen to anybody. We need to know what to do next.
What do you love about working for CHeBA?
The people, their passion, their commitment to innovative dementia research that goes beyond the lab and into implementation & dissemination and capacity building.
What is the ultimate hope you have for your research?
To challenge negative stereotypes and help people with dementia and their care partners move forward and live positively after a diagnosis of dementia.
This interview was undertaken during the COVID-19 work from home period. Nora Wong found bush walking as a safe way to stay socially connected with friends and family and a good way to rejuvenate and clear the mind.
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Nora Wong is a project management specialist who has worked on several large research projects in Australia and the United Kingdom.