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P12. 3 Years of INTERDEM Academy: The PhD roadmap to success

Detailed programme and abstracts

The INTERDEM Academy has been established in 2014, and it has been committed to stimulating the career development and capacity building of researchers in the area of psychosocial interventions and timely diagnosis in people with dementia, as well as supporting the pathway to senior academic posts in the INTERDEM network. The network has grown to 187 early stage researchers working at 64 INTERDEM centers in 19 European countries. It has offered four Masterclasses and two Summer Schools, which were great opportunities for early stage rsearchers to develop ideas, collaborations and methodological expertise.

The aim of this Masterclass is to create a platform for INTERDEM Academy researchers who are in their final year of their PhDs as well as early postdocs to showcase the excellence of their research, as well as to celebrate the success of the INTERDEM Academy network. The INTERDEM Academy researchers that have been invited to give a talk within this seminar have all encountered complex issues on their PhD journeys, ranging from difficulties with participant recruitment to managing work/life balance, and getting their work published. Looking back, they have been able to identify certain facilitating factors that have helped them along the way in finishing their PhDs. On the basis of their professional experiences they will give insight into and advice on some of the challenges they have encountered during their PhD and how they have overcome these, as well as provide some thoughts on what the INTERDEM Academy has meant for them.

P12.1. The Scenic Route: Reflections on an unconventional PhD journey


My research sought to capture the experience of community gardening from the perspectives of people with dementia, by conducting a series of weekly gardening sessions at a day centre for those living with the condition. The findings revealed that for people with dementia, gardening is not simply a matter of enjoying time outdoors; it is a forum for the expression of identity, and articulation of agency. The project provided respite and stress relief, and enabled participants to form a new social unit based upon a shared interest, rather than a shared diagnosis.

I am in the final year of my PhD, and my journey has been somewhat unconventional; I have changed both institutions and supervisors, faced many difficulties associated with community research, and experienced a number of personal challenges. Overcoming these obstacles enabled me to develop an understanding of the attributes necessary for completing a PhD, such as adaptability, perseverance, and the establishment of a strong support network. Perhaps most importantly, I learnt the importance of balance in the PhD journey. I would like to share these experiences with my fellow PhD students, to offer constructive advice and resources for overcoming any obstacles they may face. I would also like to share stories of my achievements, including securing grants, publishing papers, and delivering conference presentations, in the hope that my PhD story can inspire my fellow researchers.

The INTERDEM Academy has been integral to my academic development. I attended the inaugural INTERDEM Academy Summerschool in 2015, which proved instrumental in the development of my study, and the many subsequent opportunities offered through the network have proven invaluable. I would like to share my experiences with the Masterclass attendees to highlight the value of a strong relationship with the INTERDEM Academy for PhD researchers.

P12.2. Supporting informal dementia caregivers: testing the efficacy of dementia care management on multifaceted caregivers’ burden


To maintain the important role informal caregivers play for both People with Dementia (PwD) and national health care systems, concepts for optimal support and provision for informal caregivers must be investigated. In this context, care management has proven to be an efficient intervention to provide long-term care for PwD and their caregivers by offering the support necessary to cover some of the needs of PwD and their caregivers. To provide an optimal support for informal dementia caregivers, we conducted a cluster-randomized controlled trial of a comprehensive Dementia Care Management (DCM) for persons with dementia (PWD) and their informal caregivers in a primary care setting. My previous studies concluded that DCM aimed at identifying and meeting the various needs of PwD and their caregivers can decrease burden and associated health impairments of caregivers. The objective of my post-doc research is to investigate multifaceted caregivers’ burden, resources, and health dimensions to develop optimal assessments and support for informal caregivers of PwD.

The five major challenges of my PhD phase were time management, developing hard skills (methods, software), stabilising motivation (“PhD-blues”), establishing conflict management (e.g., author order), and feeling as a “lone fighter”. I overcome these challenges by building a strong professional and social network, by finding a PhD topic and supervisor I really felt committed, by developing my hard and soft skills through trainings, by developing realistic milestone plans, and by keeping in mind: my research would make the world a better place. I would like to advice my peers in time management, milestone planning, building professional and social networks, as well as conflict management. INTERDEM Academy enables me as a post-doc researcher to develop and establish a profound network, to meet inspiring researches at conferences and masterclasses who evaluate my research ideas, and to stay informed about the latest research innovations.

P12.3. Conversations over coffee: Navigating the PhD journey


Introduction to PhD research: The arts are a unique form of intervention for people living with dementia and can improve care, wellbeing and quality of life.  The research challenge is to capture and present these subjective experiences more robustly, to understand the effects and benefits of the arts, underpinned by high quality and systematic methodology. TAnDem (The Arts and Dementia) is a collaboration between the Universities of Nottingham and Worcester, funded by the Alzheimer’s Society UK, which aims to strengthen the evidence base for arts interventions. This presentation will give a brief overview of two TAnDem projects: a classification of arts interventions, and an exploration of how to embed the arts in residential care. The presenters will illustrate how their projects are working together to maximise impact and make a meaningful contribution to the field of the arts and dementia.

Challenges, solutions and advice: Conversations over coffee

In a lively and interactive discussion, the presenters will re-create real-life scenarios they have both faced during their PhD journeys – and share the ‘conversations over coffee’ they had with each other at the time which helped to produce advice, focus and support. Navigating issues such as real world relevance and social media, conference planning and project management, publication and peer review, presentation nerves and stakeholder engagement, this illustrates in a genuine and authentic way the benefits of a peer network. We hope to demonstrate that a PhD problem shared, is a problem solved.

INTERDEM Academy: Focussing specifically on opportunities and learning within the INTERDEM Academy, the presenters will reflect on their experiences of the INTERDEM Academy summer school, participating in the POSADEM pilot and an INTERDEM Academy fellowship. 

P12.4. Overcoming research challenges during a realist evaluation of dementia-friendly environments in hospitals

HANDLEY Melanie, GOODMAN Claire, BUNN Frances

PhD topic: A realist evaluation to develop an explanatory account of what supports the development of dementia-friendly environments in hospitals. Two NHS Trusts in the East of England were recruited.  Data collection methods included observation and interviews.

Challenges encountered and how they were overcome: There were two major challenges: conducting research in hospitals with patients with dementia; and using realist methods effectively.

  • Access to the sites and participants required careful negotiation.  Support from local investigators (staff who identified key informants, arranged access to staff meetings, and identified eligible patients) helped me navigate the sites and build relationships.  
  • Judgements of patients’ capacity to consent were complicated by patient’s acute conditions and fluctuating cognitive abilities.  Discussions with staff, and my own observations and conversations with patients addressed individual dilemmas.
  • Interviews with acutely ill, disorientated patients used ongoing consent methods which paid attention to patients’ changing circumstances. 
  • Concern about potential harm was raised by a patient’s relative. Drawing on the protocol and with support from my supervisors I resolved the issue, reassuring all involved and raising attention to staff training.   Recruitment and data collection was not impeded.
  • Realist evaluation is a theory driven approach to research.  Structuring interviews and observations to maximize opportunities to test the theory was challenging.  An iterative approach to data collection and re-working of candidate theories incorporated new evidence as it emerged.

Advice based on professional experiences: While data collection was challenging, it was a hugely enjoyable experience.  Preparation before entering the field was essential.  When there were difficult decisions to take, drawing on knowledge of the methods literature and other researchers’ experiences provided guidance for the best course of action.  A clear understanding of how data collection tools and analysis were tailored to realist methods supported theory testing.

This parallel session is organised by INTERDEM



Last Updated: Monday 23 October 2017


  • Acknowledgements

    The 27th AE Conference in Berlin received funding under an operating grant from the European Union’s Health Programme (2014-2020). Alzheimer Europe and Deutsche Alzheimer Gesellschaft e.V. gratefully acknowledge the support of all conference sponsors.
  • European Union
  • Roche