Dr Julia Wood, Senior researcher (CARDS) meets Prime Minister David Cameron at 10 Downing Street during a special screening of ‘Still Alice’, a film about Alzheimer’s.

Julia Wood at 10 Downing StreetNikki, 3rd year Adult nursing student developed a Compassion in Care noticeboard at Parkview Health Centre whilst on her district nursing placement. Hilary Shanahan, Compassion in Care Coordinator at Central London Community Healthcare NHS Trust, was so impressed by her work that she has asked to replicate Nikki’s noticeboaJulia is a senior researcher who leads the Communication And Respect in people with Dementia: Student learning (CARDS) project in Kingston and St George’s Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education. She is also a dementia friends champion and a volunteer with the Alzheimer’s Society working on a campaign to engage MPs and prospective parliamentary candidates with the Society’s aim of ensuring that people affected by dementia are getting a better deal.

Julia was one of 30 volunteers invited to see the film, Still Alice, a film about a linguistics professor who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at age 50. She also received the hospitality of the Prime Minister with a drinks reception in the state rooms the night before the London Charity Premiere of the film in aid of the Alzheimer’s Society and four days before a BAFTA for Julianne Moore was added to the accolades the film had already received.

In March 2012 the Prime Minister set a challenge on dementia with the intention of driving improvements in health and care, creating dementia friendly communities and improving dementia research by 2015, progress has been made in all these areas. However, as David Cameron said in his introduction, sometimes a good film starring someone like Julianne Moore can do more to raise awareness than government policy can realistically hope to do. Lex Lutzus the film’s producer spoke about how, after reading the book on which the film is based by Lisa Genova who has a PhD in neuroscience, she felt she had to tell the story by turn it into a film. Jeremy Hughes, Chief Executive of the Alzheimer’s Society was also present and thanked the Prime Minister for his hospitality and the volunteers for helping to improve the lives of those living with dementia.

The charming Julianne Moore answered some questions from the audience. She was asked about how she had prepared for the role and she told us that she had had little experience of dementia. She therefore went to meet a number of women living with early onset dementia and found out about their experiences and much of what she learned from that was used in the film. Julianne was also pleased to be able to say that people with early onset dementia and those close to them thought that the film represented their experiences well. Dementia is often seen as either a disease that only affects the old or even a natural part of ageing, neither of which is true. With Julianne’s performance the film is emotive and is certain to raise awareness about early onset dementia.