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Case study: Volunteer calls for others to support dementia research in south London

Read about David's experience on a dementia research study.

A retiree is urging people to help south London researchers find the answers to beating dementia by volunteering to take part in vital health research.

David, who lives in Kingston upon Thames, is involved in the PROTECT study, which aims to understand how healthy brains age and why people develop dementia. The PROTECT study is run by the University of Exeter and King’s College London, in partnership with the NHS, and is being supported by the NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN) South London.

Dementia is an umbrella term for a group of related symptoms associated with an ongoing decline of brain function. It is estimated that dementia affects more than 850,000 people in the UK.

The Kingston resident is a Research Champion for the NIHR CRN South London; an organisation which helps to increase the opportunities for people to take part in health and social care research. David said:

“I’ve always been interested in dementia research ever since my late mother was in hospital for a prolonged period. This affected her short-term memory very badly and my wife and I could really see the difference in her as the years went by.

“The number of people living with dementia is expected to keep on rising, which is why it is so important that patients, carers and members of the public take part in research, so that our understanding of dementia can continue to evolve. Research is the only way to make a difference in terms of advancing care and treatments.

“There is a reassurance in knowing that the data provided to the research team will help to find any possible dementia risks that could be reduced through lifestyle changes.”

Once a year, volunteers involved in the PROTECT study are asked to complete a series of online questionnaires about their lifestyle and health. People also complete a range of online tests, to measure changes in their brain function.

The PROTECT study has more than 28,000 volunteers. Anyone in England who is 50 or older, and who does not have dementia, is eligible to take part in the study.

Professor Dag Aarsland, who is Head of Department of Old Age Psychiatry at King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience works on the PROTECT study, said: “This research will provide valuable information about how the brain changes with age, which combination of factors such as exercise and diet really work in reducing the risk of dementia, and how best we can encourage people to adopt these changes.

“I’d also like to personally thank David and all of our volunteers for taking part in such important research into dementia.”

To find out more, visit the PROTECT website, or sign up to Join Dementia Research today to be considered for participation and to see other studies that you might be able to take part in. Further information about the NIHR’s Research Champions initiative is available online.