One of my passions is working with older adults, this why I have chosen to have a post qualification master in Psychology of Ageing (the only one available in Italy is at the University of Padua and I am very glad I have done it). When I was in Italy I have worked for three years in a nursing home and day centre where I was administering tests to assess service users' psychological and cognitive status, planning and running group and individual activities (e.g. cognitive stimulation, reminiscence, sensory stimulation, in which art and music were included), giving psychological support to the elderly and their family members.
During these three years I have noticed that many of the residents were affected by dementia but only some of them had a diagnosis. Many people wrongly believe that a person on their 70s/80s starts to lose their memory and other thinking abilities and that developing dementia is simply the way we get old. There is a lack of knowledge about the normal process of ageing and the dementia diseases or conditions. Also many family members/carers need information in order to understand their loved one with dementia, and there are very important aspects to consider when we are working/caring for people with this challenging disease.
For these reasons, I have been facilitating a meta-cognitive memory programme for adults and older adults (Lab-I Empowerment Cognitivo) by which I gave information on memory and other thinking abilities, what is normal ageing, what happens into the brain, unmasking ageing stereotypes and false beliefs - that undermine our self-esteem and consequently our cognitive abilities through feelings of anxiety and sometimes depression (that can also drive us to change our life style taking unhealthy habits). This educational elements are also part of the workshops I have been running at the Manchester Gestalt Centre (currently online, see blog). Moreover, my experience combined with my knowledge helped me to recently write a chapter entitled "Gestalt Therapy and Later Life" for a forthcoming publication edited by Margherita Spagnuolo Lobb and Pietro Andrea Cavaleri (Istituto di Gestalt HCC Italy).
Within my former assistant psychologist role, I used some of my Italian experience in order to plan a new "Strategy and Support Group" for people with Mild Cognitive Impairment in the Oldham area. Below you can visualise a poster presented at the FPOP (Faculty for the Psychology of Older People) conference 2016.
Research is also an increasingly important aspect of my practice.
When in the UK, the Memory Service offered me the opportunity to contribute to two research projects. The first one was national, multi-centre project entitled "Journeying Through Dementia" involving the University of Sheffield, University of Manchester, University of Bradford and University of Nottingham. Journeying Through Dementia is a group programme designed for and by people with dementia (alongside professional researchers). The aim of the research is to evaluate the efficacy of the programme and of its implementation in NHS services; my role in the research was to deliver the group programme to service users under Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust Memory Services.
The current research project I am involved in as UK Principal Investigator is entitled "Dementia and Driving Decision Aid - UK version" and it is lead by the University of Wollongong, Australia in collaboration with Oldham Memory Service – Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust. The aim of this project is to provide a person centred resource for individuals living with dementia to guide their decisions on driving retirement, also to encourage practitioners and carers in shared decision making approaches to support and guide individuals living with dementia on decisions on driving cessation.
Furthermore, I have recently started to work as a psychology researcher for the National Institute of Health and Science on Aging - INRCA where I am contributing to the project AgeWell. This position gives me also the opportunity to work on research papers and to undertake new projects, e.g. to collaborate again with the University of Wollongong for the development of the Dementia and Driving Decision Aid - Italian version.
Going back to the old Italian times, I run an event in my native village in which I have been talking about dementia and giving useful information and practical tips on caring for people with dementia. You can read my presentation below (if you are using a smart-phone or i-phone probably you are not able to see it, so sorry about that).
On the bottom of this page you can have a look at, and read if you understand Italian, a special magazine I published in collaboration with my older friends, service users at the San Francesco nursing home and day centre.