Local charity RICE, the Research Institute for the Care of Older People, has announced its first PhD student fellow and a new fellowship programme to expand its research capacity.
The three-year PhD study has been funded by the Medlock Charitable Trust which supports local charities working with the young, elderly, disabled or vulnerable.
Based at the Royal United Hospital in Bath, The RICE Centre is an internationally recognised research and treatment centre dedicated to improving the quality of life for older people through its research and support for people with dementia, their families and carers.
Dementia is a hidden disease with significant social costs carried primarily by unpaid family carers as well as health and social care services.
Research into dementia is underfunded in the UK, according to Dementia Research UK, 1 in 14 people over 65 have dementia yet only £90 per patient is spent on research.
As well as researching treatments for dementia, RICE hosts the NHS Memory Clinic for Bath and North East Somerset on behalf of the Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group (BSW CCG).
The RICE Memory Clinic, funded by Bath & North East Somerset Council and HCRG Care Group, receives referrals from local GPs, assesses patients’ memory and thinking skills and provides treatment and medication for dementia.
The RICE Centre also runs courses for carers and Cognitive Stimulation courses for patients.
To date, the Memory Clinic has helped over 12,000 local people with memory problems and supported their families.
Research activity at RICE focuses on three areas of health for older people; Thinking Clearly, Moving Well and Staying Strong.
The Institute’s aim is to fight for a cure for dementia and other conditions of older age including Parkinson’s disease and the decline of bone and muscle health which impacts greatly on the wellbeing of older people and their families.
Tomas Welsh, Medical Director at The RICE Centre based at the RUH, Bath said: “We are delighted to be hosting our first PhD student fellowship and that Aron will be working with us over the next three years to help us understand more about psychological distress among dementia patients.
“This is the beginning of a growing fellowship scheme allowing the charity to develop knowledge to help us improve care and support for those affected by dementia and other conditions of older age.
“Dementia is on the increase with more than 1 million people expected to have it by 2030, so it is vitally important that centres, like RICE, invest in research to learn more about the issues facing families so that treatments and support can meet their needs better.”
Anita McGrogan, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology at The University of Bath added: “I am pleased to supervise Aron on his PhD looking at data on psychological distress among dementia patients from the Clinical Practice Research Datalink, a large primary care database.
“It is exciting to work with Aron and his team at RICE who are experts in the field of dementia and the care of older people.
“I’m a statistician and love to be involved in the complex modelling of Big Data projects but I’m always keen to understand the connection between data and patient outcomes.
“Working with RICE has the reciprocal benefit of providing us with the real-world experience their team has of working with dementia patients as well as being top researchers in their field.”
Aron Jarvis student fellow at The RICE Centre said: “I am excited to be selected as RICE’s first PhD fellow and I am thankful to RICE for this opportunity as doing a PhD on dementia has been a major goal for me in recent years.
“My research, through the University of Bath, will involve using data from a large, primary care, electronic healthcare database to investigate symptoms of psychological distress in people with dementia.
“I am interested in whether we can use these data to establish what might increase, or reduce, the risk of a person with dementia experiencing psychological distress.
“I am also interested in whether psychological distress is a risk-factor for, or early-symptom of, dementia.”
Stuart Ballard, 75, from Keynsham said: “In October 2020 my wife and I were asked to take part in the PrAISED Study that RICE were managing locally on behalf of a national research study.
“My wife, Pam, had been diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s so we felt anything that would potentially help her or others had to be beneficial.
“We found the Study a worthwhile experience, it gave us something positive to focus on and we thank the RICE team for their support and for including us in their research.”