Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Jennifer Gillies- Farewell to MAREP; Hello to a New Partnership

After working with MAREP over the past seven years, it is with both sadness and excitement that announce I  am embarking on a new journey as the Executive Director for the Alzheimer Society of Kitchener-Waterloo and Cambridge.  As I sit to write this on my last day of work with MAREP, I cannot help but reflect on the amazing experiences I had, and partnerships I have developed.

I first became a Research Assistant in 2005 as a new PhD student at the University of Waterloo. One of my responsibilities was to attend A Changing Melody and interview forum participants, in order to understand the impact the forum had on them. At the same time, I started to become aware of the impact that this forum, and MAREP, was having on me. I began to see dementia and aging from a new perspective - one that associates dementia with empowerment, advocacy, and courage.

Throughout the years, I had the privilege of working on innovative research and education projects that enhance quality of life for persons with dementia and their care partners.  One of my fondest memories was travelling across Ontario with an inter-disciplinary team of researchers and actors to research the impact of I’m Still Here, a research-based drama that changes actions and images of dementia.

In 2007, I served as Acting Associate Director of Research. During this time, I was welcomed into the homes of our partners to help create two By Us For Us guides: resources that help persons with dementia and their care partners better live with dementia. I worked with a team of persons with dementia, their families, and numerous organizations to host A Changing Melody. There,  I witnessed persons with dementia becoming empowered to advocate for change in their communities. I also helped develop the Changing Melody toolkit, a resource used by communities to host local learning and sharing forums.

In 2010, upon completion of my PhD, I returned to MAREP as a Postdoctoral Fellow. In this role, I had the honour of working with the Partnerships in Dementia Care (PiDC) Alliance, and specifically, with folks from the South West CCAC, Saint Elizabeth, One Care, and the Alzheimer Society of Huron County. Together, we were learning about the process of transforming the current care culture into person-centred and relationship-centred care.

Throughout all of these experiences one thing remains consistent - here is a group of dedicated individuals working collectively to enhance the lives of persons with dementia and their care partners. I can say with certainty that through the development of authentic partnerships we can make positive change. While I am going to miss working with the amazing MAREP team, I know that we will have opportunities to work collaboratively to improve dementia care in our communities in my new role. And with such amazing people working together, I am truly optimistic that we will achieve our goals.

Jennifer Gillies, Executive Director, Alzheimer Society of Kitchener-Waterloo and Cambridge

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