Study exploring myths surrounding dementia successful in changing misconceptions

A pioneering workshop to educate university students on dementia awareness has been successful in changing misconceptions.

The Dementia Detectives workshop was created by Dr Sahdia Parveen from the University of Bradford and was initially developed as an awareness initiative for secondary school students aged 14 to 16 years. The hour-long dementia awareness workshop received positive feedback from schools and gained a large following of over a thousand people on social media.

The new version for university students was developed and launched as part of Dementia Awareness Week in 2016. The aim of Dementia Detectives is to foster positive person-centred attitudes towards those living with dementia amongst young people and encourage involvement in a dementia friendly community. The detective theme is incorporated into the workshop as a metaphor underlying the notion of dispelling the myths surrounding dementia and uncovering the truth, whilst working in teams.

Before the workshop started the 42 participants were asked to rate on a scale how much they felt they knew about dementia. Participants had some pre-existing knowledge of dementia however negative stereotypes and attitudes were evident.

Sahdia (pictured) said: “Two specific misconceptions that students had were that dementia was perceived to occur only in old age and people living with dementia were thought to be aggressive. Participants expressed very negative perceptions of life with dementia believing that people with dementia have a very poor quality of life and that it is not possible to live well with dementia.

“I hope through the Dementia Detectives workshop that students learn that people can live well with dementia and that there are lots of ways we can support them and enable people to live a happy and fulfilling life.”

Following the workshop participants came away with a range of behaviours and actions they would be willing to perform to support a person living with dementia in the community. Authors on the paper were Sahdia Parveen, Kirsty Haunch, Fionnuala Kerry and Janet Oyebode. The paper titled ‘Initial evaluation of a university dementia awareness initiative’ has been published in Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice

The University was awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education for world-leading work to improve the lives of people living with dementia.