A jolly good fellow

Being a research fellow helped me improve the lives of people with dementia, says Victoria Booth.

Dementia is a rapidly growing global issue. About 850,000 people in the UK have the condition and the number is rising. The expertise of physiotherapists and other allied health professionals is invaluable to enable people affected by dementia to live well with their condition. This is why I studied for a PhD through the Alzheimer’s Society’s clinical training fellowships programme 
I have spent much of my career working with older people and realised that patients with dementia were not always getting the best care. I wanted to use my expertise to make a difference to the lives of patients and their families. 
My studies focused on understanding why people with cognitive impairment are at a higher risk of falls, and whether physiotherapy techniques could help to reduce this risk. I discovered that a combined physical and cognitive exercise-based programme was deliverable, feasible, and acceptable to older adults with mild dementia, and shows promise at reducing falls risk. I now hope to study whether these combined exercises can be integrated into a multifactorial intervention and explore if they are effective at reducing falls.  
While research is an exciting and challenging career path for physiotherapists, you never stop being a clinician and the Alzheimer’s Society values your clinical contribution. It is committed to patient and public involvement.
Throughout my PhD I was advised and helped by a wonderful group of people who had personal experience of dementia.
I’m so pleased I took the chance and applied to the Alzheimer’s Society. To follow suit, you need to provide details of your project plan, your experience and a financial breakdown. You also need to write a lay summary so that people affected by dementia can read it and comment from their perspective. If you are lucky enough to be shortlisted, you have to attend an interview. 
Although it’s a daunting process, I’m glad I took the chance. My fellowship helped me develop my research skills, and allowed me to tailor my studies and training to my needs while keeping my clinical skills up to date.  

More information

  • Dr Victoria Booth is based at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust

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