October 22, 2014, by Emma Thorne

Plaudits for dementia care documentary

A documentary commissioned to complement University of Nottingham research into hospital care for people with dementia has picked up two prizes at the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival.

Today is Monday was commissioned and produced by Pippa Foster (now Operations Manager, Alzheimer’s Society) while she was working at The University of Nottingham with Professor John Gladman and Assistant Professor Sarah Goldberg on the Medical Care for Older People Programme.

It documented life on Ward B47 at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust’s Queen’s Medical Centre, a medical and mental health ward which is run by Professor Rowan Harwood and pioneers innovative new treatments and approaches to caring for older patients with dementia.

Speaking before the ceremony, held at Edinburgh’s Filmhouse on Saturday October 18, director Owen Davies described it as ‘20 minutes of pure observation in a hospital’, with the rawness of the footage giving the documentary its power. Shot over eight days on a hospital ward, it can be difficult to watch and certainly was not an easy film to make. “It was quite a daunting task to begin with,” said Owen. “But actually at the end of it, it felt like a privilege…from a filmmaker’s point of view and with the stories we bear witness to.”

Pippa Foster said: “We were looking into best care for people with dementia in hospital and we trialled a model on a ward. And we wanted to show how it felt…It was quite risky for us as academics [to make a film] but Owen turned it into an incredible documentary.” She added that the hospital staff fully supported them in taking a ‘warts and all’ approach to the film. “They said to us, ‘You can come and do this as long as you don’t make a nice, schmaltzy, clean-cut film. We want the truth in this.’ That was the condition.”

Today Is Monday is also having an impact beyond its success as a documentary. Pippa added: “From a research perspective, there’s a translational gap of 17 years from getting evidence into practice…But a film like this is incredibly accessible. It’s emotive, it relates, it involves real people, so everyone who’s watched it has had a huge reaction. It’s been shown to hundreds of people around the world and been used as training for nurses, psychiatrists, doctors and for lay people.”

Accepting the Jury Prize, Owen added, “It’s a privilege to hear that the film is now being used to raise awareness and as an advocacy tool.”

The documentary picked up best mid-length documentary and was joint winner of the jury award at the international film festival, which is one of Scotland’s most diverse cultural events, covering everything from music, film and visual art to theatre, dance, and literature.

Since the making of Today is Monday was made, Dr Goldberg has been awarded a grant by the Alzheimer’s Society to produce reusable learning resources based on the documentary.

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