Prof Gabriele Meyer is Director of the Institute of Health and Nursing Sciences at the Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg
How did you become interested in dementia research?
My first professional training was to become a registered nurse, then I trained at university to become a vocational teacher for German literature and health sciences.
After that I decided to go on with a research career and started to prepare my PhD, during which I worked with older people in care in nursing homes. My first study was on the prevention of hip fractures by external hip protectors, and later on we looked at prevention of accidental falls and the use of physical restraints. This was a hot topic in dementia care and it led us to move into to dementia research.
Tell us a little about the research you do now.
I was the co-ordinator of the EU-funded RightTimePlaceCare project, where we gathered data from people with dementia and their caregivers in eight European countries. We found out that there is a lot of variation in risk factors for people moving from living in the home with dementia to moving into an institution. Different countries had strengths and weaknesses. Now that we have data about this transition we can start to look more deeply at individual risk factors and practices.
What trends have you seen in recent years in dementia care?
I think awareness of dementia care has increased a lot, particularly of the need to research health services – this is something we need.
We are now confronted with many people in need of health care services and nursing care for dementia and it is not enough to spend the money for biological or laboratory research.
I am happy that things have really changed here in recent years, and we have more emphasis on healthcare research now and how to improve the outcome for the patient.
If you had a magic wand, what would you make happen in dementia care?
I would like to see more people thinking about advance care directives.
I think we need to start to think early about end of life care when we are in a good mood and good health. Where there is no strategy implemented, people may receive feeding tubes and may be restrained, which could cause many adverse effects.
Also I think it would relieve the caregivers and next of kin from having to make decisions where they feel overwhelmed. Nurses could take over responsibility in this process, they could start to initiate discussions about end of life pro-actively. This would be my wish, to get these policies implemented.
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