Maria Gialama joined the Centre as a PhD student, following the award of a Maynooth University Graduate Teaching PhD Scholarship in late 2017. She obtained a BSc (Hons) degree in Psychology from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTh) in Greece, followed by a MSc in Health Psychology from the University of Bath, UK and a Postgraduate Diploma in Psychotherapy from the Hellenic Institute of Psychology and Health, Thessaloniki (Greece).

Maria has approximately 7 years’ professional experience in academia, hospital settings and community-based NGOs, having worked with vulnerable and disadvantaged populations, including older people with cognitive impairments/neurodegenerative diseases (e.g. Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases, NHS), homeless, impoverished and long-term unemployed people (in a project co-funded by the European Union under the European Social Fund), as well as unaccompanied minors/refugees/migrants and asylum seekers (Project funded by European Commission- Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid and the Greek Ministry of Finance and Development). She has conducted high quality collaborative research at national and international level (including projects funded by the European Union) and has taught on several areas within psychology, research and counselling/psychotherapy in both Greek and British higher education institutions.

Maria has also taken on multiple volunteering roles including Liaison Officer for UNESCO Learning City project, co-ordinator of numerous philanthropic/fundraising events to support those affected by the financial and the refugee crises in Greece and volunteer counsellor for young people and for older adults with health and mental health issues.

Current Research

Maria’s research focuses on the development and evaluation of a novel multicomponent non-pharmacological intervention on behaviour and psychological well-being in older adults with mild-moderate dementia, and the impact on family caregivers. Approximately 40-50 million people worldwide are currently living with dementia, making it a global health challenge not only for those living with the condition and their families, but also for wider health care systems and societies.

Drug treatments for dementia are limited and researchers are increasingly seeking alternative ways to enable people with dementia to live well, using interventions to mitigate against function loss and improve symptom management (NICE, 2018). This research, which is supervised by Prof. Sinead McGilloway (Centre Director) and Prof. Vicky Karkou (Edge Hill University, UK), is employing a mixed methods design, including a randomised controlled trial to evaluate the effectiveness of a novel intervention based on dance movement therapy combined with (for the first time) mindfulness techniques, in an effort to explore its potential to reduce the frequency/severity of the neuropsychiatric symptoms of dementia and improve the QoL of PwD, whilst helping to reduce caregiver stress/burden.