Queen’s Nurse Allison O’Kelly has been awarded a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Travelling Fellowship to travel to Australia. In this blog she discusses her area of interest and what she hopes to achieve during her time abroad.

There is a strong nursing background in my family- my mother was a nurse, one of my aunts was the Matron of Bradford Royal Infirmary and another was a District and Queen’s Nurse.

I have been a mental health nurse since 2001 and I have worked predominantly with people with dementia. I am now the Clinical Lead for Memory Services in East Cornwall.

I became a Queen’s Nurse in 2013 and last year I was accepted into the first cohort of The QNI’s Queen’s Nurse Leadership Programme facilitated by QNI Project Manager and Queen’s Nurse, Sharon Aldridge-Bent.

As part of the course we had to produce individual projects and I wanted to focus my work around the needs and challenges faced by people who are lesbian, gay, bi-sexual or transgender (LGBT) with dementia – I have professional experience working with a trans woman who developed Alzheimer’s disease and became confused about her identity. Through my own research I found that there is growing interest in raising awareness in this area, with Australia providing excellent training and services.

I have already had work about LGBT and dementia published in the Journal of Dementia Care, ‘Out of the closet, into a difficult place in later life’ was published in both the UK and Australia in 2015. This paper was listed as recommended reading by the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE).

With a colleague I also reviewed a factsheet and booklet about LGBT and dementia for the Alzheimer’s Society and I am involved with their LGBT+ and dementia project.

The QNI Leadership programme gave me the confidence and momentum to apply for a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Travelling Fellowship to travel to Australia and investigate their LGBT Dementia services for myself.

I was delighted when I was short-listed and interviewed in Westminster in January 2018. Words couldn’t really describe how I felt a few weeks later when I learned that I had been successful, especially when over a thousand people had applied.

I had already made some tentative enquiries in Australia and connected with another Fellow who went to Australia and America with a similar project, so right now I am working out my itinerary of who and where I am going to visit. I have been funded for 5 weeks and during that time I hope to fit in a dive on the Great Barrier Reef as well as working!

When I return I am going to turn my learning into awareness training for my Trust, care homes in Cornwall and GP practices. I will do this using both face to face and online training. I have also been asked to take part in a documentary looking at the needs of the older LGBT community.

My vision is for the health services in Cornwall to be LGBT inclusive and gender neutral. I want my work to help encourage people who are LGBT to engage in health screening and health promotion initiatives without fear of judgement or prejudice. I also aim to raise awareness of the heightened risk of self-harm and suicide experienced by people who identify as LGBT.

We are an aging population and there are a growing number of people in Cornwall who are both LGBT and over 65.  It is so important we get our services and care spaces right for them.

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