Having worked with Maastricht on an ERASMUS+ project on dementia in the past, it was great to continue our collaboration for the next 18 months. Thanks to the Alzheimer’s Society in England and Alzheimer’s Netherlands, I was awarded funding to look into health inequalities in accessing and using formal dementia care  in England and the Netherlands. When we hear health inequalities, we probably often think about middle- or low-income countries, but the truth is, even people in our city can struggle accessing the right care depending on their levels of education, their ethnicity, their income, or their gender. So for dementia, people might struggle accessing paid carers, respite care, day care centres, or care homes.
As part of the project, I am visiting the CAPHRI at Maastricht University and the Living Lab four times over the course of the project, to support the data collection, meet with fellow peers, and meet non-research sites. During my first visit it was great to meet those people helping me collect the data in Dutch (questionnaires and interviews), whilst having in-depth discussions about the differences of the English and Dutch ethics system (the Dutch one is faster!) Having the time away from your regular day-to-day job is important to make those connections with other researchers in your field, and learn from research they are doing.
One of many interesting things I’ve done that week was visit a, in my opinion, luxurious care home in the Netherlands, with researchers from Maastricht University and University of Witten in Germany. Getting a tour through the care home made me think that potential residents and families had been purposefully consulted about the design of the care home – there even was a cinema room and a nice little outdoor garden with birds! But the care home manager said that wasn’t the case. Having been to many care homes in England to collect data, and generally having left with a very sad feeling about the state of the homes and the daily lives of the residents, I wonder how we can bring some of this care home design over to England.
Overall, being at Maastricht University for a week has helped me to not only share some of my knowledge, but also to learn a lot from their approaches to dementia care work. And hopefully this project is just one step in continuing our collaboration together, by building up a wider network of projects and applying for funding opportunities together – because you can learn much more by sharing knowledge and applying it then staying within your own setting.
Dr Clarissa Giebel  is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Liverpool and NIHR CLAHRC North West Coast. She has been working in dementia care research for over 7 years focusing her research on on helping people with dementia live at home independently for longer.
You can follow Clarissa on Twitter Follow @ClarissaGiebel