“Taking the first tentative steps towards a PhD…” by Rachel Daly


This is one of many firsts this week. I am attempting to write my first blog! So far this week I have also tweeted my first tweet and completed my first National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) residential workshop. The twitter feed is, to be frank a little confusing, the workshop on the other hand was truly inspiring! It was wonderful to be surrounded by likeminded professionals, all dedicated to improving the lives of people living with dementia and even better to have eminent speakers sharing their knowledge, skills and experience so freely and selflessly was amazing. Thank you all so much, we are very grateful; and we will do you proud…you can’t squeeze that much passion and enthusiasm into one room without making a difference :0).

I am delighted to be undertaking a PhD in dementia care as part of the Research Capacity in Dementia Care Programme (RCDCP); I am based at the University of Hertfordshire within the Centre for Research in Primary and Community Care (CRIPACC) surrounded by a wonderful team of researchers who have made me so welcome, and have landed what might just be the best supervisory team ever! Dr Frances Bunn and Professor Claire Goodman. I am fascinated by care homes and have had the pleasure of working with many excellent care home managers (and the misfortune to work with a couple of dreadful ones); the work undertaken by these managers and their resilient, tireless workforce never ceases to amaze me. Every day these wonderful staff change people’s lives just by coming into work with a smile; despite long hours, hard work and poor pay, and they care for the most well-loved, interesting and often hidden people in our community, our nans and grandads, great-nans and great-uncles, ex-Lord Mayors and Ladies, dustmen, soldiers and doctors; many of whom have lost their voice and their capacity to make a choice…or have they?

My area of interest (as you may gather) is in people living with dementia in care homes and their ability and/or opportunity to make choices about their care. Is it OK to ‘allow’ older adults whose mental capacity is waning to make ‘unwise’ decisions? Who bears the responsibility? Who owns the risk?

My experience of this journey so far is that I am terrified (I am 6 weeks in)! But, I recently set up and managed a multidisciplinary integrated team in health and social care, I have faced down Finance Directors of CCG’s with strong business cases, and I have 2 children…surely I can do this?! I can pin down that elusive question, involve the people living with dementia and their relatives, care home staff and CQC, and genuinely make a difference to the lived experience of those most precious people living with dementia. I am sure I can…and I will!
I am not sure that anyone will actually read my first blog, but I am glad to have got it done. It has given me confidence (although it hasn’t been accepted yet) and I am pleased to get my thoughts, determination and passions down on paper (metaphorically speaking). I intend to ‘blog’ again…or even perhaps to ‘vlog’ if anyone is interested, who knows where this #dementiaventure will take me.

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