Working with a research team from Lancaster University, a Private Eye cartoonist is using his sketches to help dementia patients.
This is the first study where researchers, led here by Dr Siobhan Reilly from the University’s Division of Health Research, have worked with people living with dementia to prioritise what, they say, are the most important areas of life and apply these to health and social care research.
Tony Husband became involved following the death of his own father from the condition.
In 2014 he published a book of cartoons based on his experiences called “Take Care, Son: The Story of My Dad and his Dementia”.
At the same time Dr Reilly was just starting two studies within the Neighbourhoods and Dementia Programme, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and the National Institute of Health Research.
Dr Reilly met with Tony to see if there was a way of incorporating his artistic talents to document the study, which aims to identify what matters most to people living with dementia.
His cartoons have appeared in many newspapers, magazines, books and websites, including Private Eye, The Times, Punch, and The Spectator. He has won more than 15 major awards.
Dr Reilly said: “Back in 2014 we didn’t know what the results of the study would be but we knew that bringing Tony on board to bring the study alive for the public would be a great idea – little did we know how integral his cartoons would become to the study! The response has been amazing.”
His cartoons have been used to:
· capture the essence of what people with dementia were saying
· express views in simple accessible images
· help to open up a conversation on a difficult subject using humour
· enable people with dementia to shape the research narrative
· communicate the purpose and outcomes of the research to a wider audience.
Last week Tony was invited to sketch attendees at a study event on campus. The BBC were there to film.
This event provided an opportunity for people living with dementia to discuss the areas of daily life that are most important to them. Tony listened attentively to the discussions and drew many pictures of their daily lives and aspects vital to living a fulfilled life.
Tony, who was keen to be involved in the study, said: “I’m happy to do anything I can to raise awareness of dementia and also to show how carers are often overlooked; if I can raise a smile at the same time, that’s even better.”
He also recently documented the final study conference at University of Manchester at the culmination of the five-year project, where the Lancaster research team presented their research into the key outcomes relevant to the daily life of people living with dementia, as well as assessing the impact of dementia training in hospitals.
This event also provided an opportunity for people living with dementia to discuss how contributing to the research had enhanced their lives.
One of the conference speakers was Pam Begg, who was diagnosed with dementia some 10 years before becoming a Lancaster University co-researcher on the Neighbourhoods and Dementia study.
She said: “I have begun to believe in myself again. My life is not over. It is worthwhile and I am able to give something back to the community. I feel that by being involved in research I am slowing down the progression of my dementia as I am keeping my brain active.”
This work is of national importance and a number of studies are already considering how these results will be incorporated in their choice of outcome measures for their studies.
Visit the Neighbourhood and Dementia study website to find out more about this research that has developed a core set of outcomes to be used in future research evaluating health and social care interventions for people living with dementia at home.
Photo caption: Professor Alistair Burns, the National Clinical Lead for Dementia, shows his support for this research by wearing a t-shirt with the study cartoon drawn by Tony Husband.
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