4th July 2022
Penelope Munro, partner at THRINGS meets Melissa Hillier, CEO of RICE
Penelope Munro: RICE is an internationally-renowned organisation and is here in Bath and yet there will be some people who don’t know about it and what it does. Can you explain RICE for us?
Melissa Hillier: RICE (The Research Institute for the Care of Older People) is an independent charity originally set up to investigate problems associated with dementia. Our aim has broadened and is now to improve the lives of older people through research, diagnosis, treatment and support.
PM: So, RICE is actually two things in one then? Both research and treatment?
MH: Yes, exactly. And that brings all sorts of advantages; the clinical and research teams can experience both areas, building long-term relationships with patients while also being part of the important research to improve our understanding of the ageing process.
PM: If you suspect you or a loved one is experiencing memory problems, how would you go about accessing RICE?
MH: A referral is usually made through a GP. So, you would start there and would be referred to RICE for initial tests. Our memory clinic, run by doctors, nurses and psychologists give an in-depth assessment of a person’s memory function. It’s then possible to make a diagnosis and offer treatment, whether that is drug or non-drug therapy or both.
PM: What do you think are the biggest challenges for someone facing dementia?
MH: It is a really heart-breaking disease; the person will often know the overall outcome but it moves in drawn-out stages. They may find it difficult to hold conversations, or to recognise people or places. And, over time, they will lose the ability to participate in activities, including personal care and daily life.
PM: That must prove difficult and upsetting for whoever is caring for them.
MH: Absolutely. Dementia is sometimes called the ‘long goodbye’ as it slowly strips away the person you have always known. Often it leaves the carer feeling emotionally and socially isolated, which is why RICE provides Carers’ Courses to help carers understand dementia, and what it means to look after someone with the disease.
PM: What are the biggest challenges facing RICE at the moment?
MH: Definitely funding. People believe we are NHS-funded because our site is here at the RUH. But we are actually a charity and the only funding we get is for our memory clinics and for some of our drug trials. We are dependent for the rest on charitable funding such as donations, fundraising initiatives and legacies.
PM: Do you have any campaigns planned to raise the profile of RICE and bring in more funds?
MH: Yes, we are launching our Delivering Healthy Ageing campaign in July. This campaign will showcase the important work done here at RICE and how it is focused on improving the ability to live well with dementia and similar age-related illnesses.
PM: And how can we get involved with or find out more about RICE?
MH: You can visit our website – www.rice.org.uk, or you can contact me directly on firstname.lastname@example.org. We have an internationally-recognised resource here in Bath supporting anyone facing age-related challenges. We want more people to know about us, support us and help us to deal with these issues together.
If you would like to know more about any of the issues raised in this article please contact Penelope Munro.