two women having a conference call

“It’s lovely that our participants feel they can open up about their worries and experiences”

Research Assistant Eva Tipping tells us about starting a role with DETERMIND on our new Covid-19 study.

Why did you get involved in the DETERMIND project?

When I finished my Cognitive Neuroscience MSc I knew that I was interested in working with individuals with dementia. Around this time my Grandad had been diagnosed with Mixed Dementia and so I was already learning first hand the impact of dementia on a person’s life and the people around them. As a result, I found a role as a Psychology Graduate Volunteer for a Memory Assessment Service which was specifically focused around diagnosis and post-diagnostic support for individuals with dementia. During my time there I realised just how different each person’s experience of dementia diagnosis and care had been and this was something I wanted to learn more about.

I first heard about DETERMIND from a patient who had taken part in the project and was telling me what a lovely time she’d had when the researchers had visited and the sorts of things they had talked about. From then I knew that DETERMIND was something that I wanted to get involved in and the more I read around the subject the more my interest grew. It’s amazing to be involved in a project that wants to bring change to dementia care and policies. I think DETERMIND is particularly important because it informs policy and change in care by listening to real patient experiences, hence any changes as a result of the research will reflect the opinions of those who know most about dementia. To top it off I feel like I’m doing a job that really makes a difference and that is something that’s really important to me.

What have you learned and enjoyed so far about the project?

Whilst I have joined the project at a very strange and unprecedented time, the first couple of months in this role have been amazing. It’s been a learning process for everyone in terms of understanding how to work remotely and how to stay connected as a team. But as a new member of staff, who joined in the midst of it all, I have been made to feel so welcome and the team have put a lot of effort into making me feel included and comfortable via online video chats.

Since starting, I have been involved in a sub-study which is looking into the impact of COVID-19 has had on people with dementia and the people around them. It has been a great experience for me to learn about piloting a study and how a research project really gets off the ground. This is something I will be able to take with me in any future projects. I have also really enjoyed having a chat with people from all walks of life and getting to hear about personal experiences that I never would have otherwise. The present situation has been difficult for so many people and I feel honoured to be able to provide some comfort and be a friendly person to chat to in such challenging times. It’s lovely that our participants feel they can open up about their worries and experiences and I am incredibly privileged to be the person they want to do this with. This is something I hope to be able to do in any future roles I go into.

How might you use this experience in your future career?

I am incredibly lucky to start off my career in such a rewarding and interesting role. I am fairly set on the idea of starting a research PhD and I have a particular interest in both dementia and learning disabilities. My family has been impacted by both of these and it is my aim to be involved in research in these areas throughout my career. This role has given me a great understanding into how a large clinical study works, and the hard work that goes into getting such a large number of participants, and this is something I hope to carry forward in my future roles. But, I think more importantly, this experience has given me valuable insight into what it is like for an individual living with dementia and this has made me even more passionate about ensuring equality within dementia care.

Eva Tipping is a Research Assistant at the Brighton & Sussex Medical School.