From plant nurseries direct to researchers – the funds raised from Plant Management Australia’s Dianthus ‘Memories’ flowers will support researchers in their quest to identify and fill gaps in dementia knowledge in communities across Tasmania.
Researcher Dr Claire Eccleston from the University of Tasmania Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre has been making good use of the $50,000 Plants Management Australia – Whetman Pinks Project Grant awarded by the Dementia Australia Research Foundation in 2016.
With an aim of creating dementia-friendly communities, Dr Eccleston is focusing on determining the current attitudes and knowledge about dementia in communities so this information can be utilised to enable targeted, appropriate education to business, councils, schools, service clubs and service organisations within communities.
It is hoped that this knowledge will in turn support those organisations and individuals to better understand dementia, its impact, and how they can contribute to enhancing quality of life for people with dementia through individual and collective actions of an everyday nature.
Dr Eccleston anticipates directly addressing the deficit of information about dementia knowledge in communities by using the Dementia Knowledge Assessment Survey (DKAS), a new tool developed by Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre (WDREC).
Dr Eccleston explained the project has two main components: a quantitative survey followed by a series of focus groups targeting a wide range of people from different Tasmanian communities.
“In this way, we can find out what people do and don’t know about important issues related to dementia such as the causes and characteristics of the condition, how to care for and communicate with people living with dementia, and how to manage their own personal risk of getting dementia,” said Dr Eccleston.
“When developing dementia-friendly communities, dementia is everybody’s business. The consumers in this project are community members who will form part of dementia-friendly communities, and will be living with, caring for, and interacting with people with dementia.”
Dr Eccleston said that working as a carer for older adults and people with disabilities in her early twenties kindled an enduring passion to support people living with dementia to be able to live the best lives possible.
“I believe that there is still so much we can learn about the best ways to do this, and that quality research can answer many of our questions. In turn, research guides and forms an evidence base for education that is key to raising people’s awareness and understanding of dementia,” said Dr Eccleston.
“Raised awareness and reduced stigma are, I believe, central to developing communities that are dementia-friendly and to the adoption of quality, evidence-based care practices.”
Dr Eccleston said the grant provides vital funding that supports the project team in surveying and talking with people from communities across regional and rural Tasmania and parts of urban Tasmania that are less commonly reached.
“I was thrilled to discover that the funds supporting my research have come from purchases of the Dianthus ‘Memories’ flowers and to read the story behind the flowers’ development,” said Dr Eccleston.
Plants Management Australia (PMA) Managing Director, Chris Sargent said that he is pleased the PMA’s continued commitment to the Dementia Australia Research Foundation through donating a percentage of the profits from the Dianthus ‘Memories’ plants has resulted in the funding of Dr Eccleston’s research.
“Dr Eccleston’s research stood out to us as she is trying to make a difference in communities for everyday people. Her research focusing on making the lives of those affected by dementia, both directly and indirectly, easier through education and understanding, can and hopefully will reach large and small communities across Australia,” Mr Sargent said.
“The fact that Dr Eccleston is based in Tasmania as is PMA, provides an exciting opportunity to see firsthand what she discovers.
“Everyone is familiar with, and we are a fan, of the saying ‘from little things big things grow’. In this instance from a little bit of education a big impact will be made for those affected by dementia.”
Dr Eccleston and her research team have collected more than 400 surveys completed by people from 30 different council regions of Tasmania. The researchers also spoke with six focus groups across the state from both rural and urban communities. Data analysis is currently underway.
Dianthus ‘Memories’, a perfumed plant with a pure white bloom was bred by Plants Management Australia to support dementia research, with $1 from the sale of each plant going to Alzheimer’s Australia Dementia Research Foundation.