Kate White is an activist, carer, researcher and psychotherapist. After her partner John was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease nine years ago, Kate began to recognise how attachment theory might be applied to increase understanding between people with dementia and their caregivers and provide new ways for them to support, and connect with, each other.
Please tell us about some of the work you have done to support, improve and contribute to the lives of, people with dementias?
In September 2014, I initiated a path-breaking conference on the theme of an attachment approach to understanding dementia, papers of which will be published by Routledge this year. This will develop further the vital contribution of John Bowlby’s attachment theory to understanding people living with dementia and their caregivers.
I have developed, with my colleague Angela Cotter, a series of workshops about the applications of attachment theory to dementia care which I believe can provide carers with support and understanding in often painful and challenging situations.
I am also proud, with my partner John’s support, to share our experiences more widely through conference talks and media interviews, more recently talking about the role of music and singing in our lives as a family living with dementia.
What was your motivation for getting involved in the field of dementia?
My partner John, a Jazz musician and psychotherapist, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s nine years ago. As his condition progressed I began to recognise how our mutual understanding of the need for attachment and love provided us with a ‘secure base’ from which to explore. We got to know other families living with dementia whilst attending an amazing variety of activities primarily provided by the outstanding Camden Carers Centre.
The turning point however for us both was attending the Remembering Yesterday Caring Today (RYCT) project, led by Pam Schweitzer. We found a way, through this unique mix of reminiscence and creative arts, to revitalise our relationship, recover our confidence and share what we have learned.
What would you say has been your greatest achievement or highlight?
The opportunity to give a presentation Celebrating the Links: Remembering Yesterday Caring Today & Attachment Theory to an international audience at Greenwich University in November 2017. Their positive feedback confirmed attachment theory’s vital contribution to this field, which was very rewarding.
Launching a book and enabling the RYCT intervention to be recognised as an essential example of good practice in this field.
If you could change one thing now to improve the lives of people living with dementia, what would it be?
RYCT programmes universally available in UK as a standard intervention at the point of diagnosis.
And another thing...
Within the context of a responsive community it is the love, support and creativity that my partner John brings which enables us to live well as a couple with dementia. He is so inspiring as he embraces the challenges of it all with such a rich and complex emotional intelligence!