Thanks to the Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Nederlands, and their Knowledge Exchange Fellowship scheme, I went back to Maastricht University last week to catch up on recruitment, and all things study-related.
My study  is looking at health inequalities in accessing formal dementia care services after a diagnosis, and comparing access and utilisation between the North West Coast of England and the south of the Netherlands – both regions which experience high levels of socio-economic deprivation. That’s why we are handing out questionnaires to family carers of people living with dementia, and conducting interviews in each country, to understand what types of socio-economic factors, such as income, or ethnicity, may affect access and use of dementia services.
Luckily, finally, we have now ethical approval to collect the data in both countries – and, no surprise, ethical approval was much faster in the Netherlands than over here. So what now? At the moment, we are getting all the questionnaires ready for handing and sending out, and in the UK I am linking up with several NHS Trusts and the ENRICH care home network , plus of course Join Dementia Research , to get the questionnaires out to as many family carers as possible. It was interesting to hear that in the Netherlands, many clinicians and care home providers, linked up with Maastricht’s Living Lab , had subtle suggestions to the layout and questions of the questionnaire. Having worked with clinicians and people with dementia and family carers to develop the questionnaire (and the interview questions), I had already ensured to co-produce this. But I reckon there are always comments and suggestions, but with ethics now finally approved, we’re ready to start recruitment, finally!
Being placed into a different research setting, even for a week, really makes you think differently about your study and other areas of your research, as you can learn so much from talking to local academics and PhD students in the field. But also, from learning about a different system of dementia care. With my limited Dutch skills, I fortunately have two researchers helping me collect the data over in Maastricht. They had been busy translating the questionnaire into Dutch, which was pretty cool to see when I was over there! And hopefully it’s not just me learning something new, but also them.
Whilst we’ll be busy recruiting over the coming months, I’ll be back in Maastricht in spring to analyse the data jointly, and one more time in summer to share the findings with the Maastricht dementia research group and local services and clinicians. Luckily I brought some Dutch waffles back in my suitcase to relieve the wait..
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