Throughout August, the SDRC are celebrating our next generation of researchers by devoting a series of blogs to PhD Students/ Early Career Researchers. Read the series so far here

This blog is by Sam Quinn, who is based at the University of the West of Scotland. His research relates to the SDRC Living with Dementia theme and interests include supporting people with dementia who have a learning disability. Follow Sam Quinn on Twitter: @SamQuinn91

I am an early career researcher with a background in learning disability and dementia research. I studied sociology (BA) and social research (MA) at the University of Sheffield before undertaking my PhD at the University of the West of Scotland in October 2014.

My PhD research was entitled Ageing in place with Down Syndrome and Dementia: An Ethnography in a learning disability group home. The focus of my study was the increasing population of people ageing with a learning disability. Notably, people with Down syndrome are living into their fifties and sixties. However, there is also higher incidence of early onset dementia for people with Down syndrome; typically in their early fifties.

Over 2,000 people with a learning disability live in supported group accommodation in Scotland. Many of these settings have adopted a model called ‘ageing in place’. This model supports people to remain in their own home as they age or as a chronic condition continues, with adaptations provided when and where they are needed.

My ethnographic study investigated multiple perspectives of ageing in place with Down syndrome and dementia in a group home setting. By observing, interviewing and holding group discussions with key participants (people with Down syndrome and dementia, carers, co-residents and family members) I aimed to understand if, and how far, the ageing in place model is an appropriate model of care for individuals with Down syndrome and dementia living in a small group home.

The research design was an ethnographic study guided by the principles of social constructionism. Multi methods were utilised to capture the different perspectives of residents, relatives and staff. These included:

  • an eight month participant observation with 14 residents, five with Down syndrome and dementia and nine with a non­specific learning disability,
  • a focus group with group home staff and management,
  • nine semi structured interviews with family members

The different sources of data were analysed thematically. My study identified the physical, social and organisational factors that can determine if ageing in place will be successful for an individual with Down syndrome and dementia living in a group home setting.

Alongside my PhD I have worked as a research assistant on a range of projects, including; Jenny’s diary – supporting conversations about dementia with people who have a learning disability, and Dementia dog and Together in Dementia Everyday (TIDE) evaluations. I have presented the findings of my study at international conferences, including; Alzheimer Europe and the annual BSG conference. Most recently I have published my first book chapter, with SDRC Executive Committee member Dr Karen Watchman, in the Textbook of Dementia Care.

The SDRC will be posting blogs featuring bios from ECRs throughout August. Follow us on Twitter so you know can keep up to date with the series.