I would be lying if I said I have always wanted to pursue a career in dementia care. As a kid I dreamt of being a teacher, a nurse, a rollercoaster operator, but most of all I wanted to one day operate a cash register that wasn’t made by Fisher Price (to be honest I still want to try).
When I was 17-years-old, I accepted a job as a server and receptionist at a retirement home in my hometown. I didn’t really know what to expect when I started, and I was more than a little intimated by the extra-large tray that I was expected to carry around with ease. What I thought was just a high school part-time job, turned out to start me on my career path in the field of gerontology.
Fast forward ten years, and my interest in working with older adults continues to grow. While working in a long term care home in the programs department, I had the opportunity to work in a specialized dementia care neighbourhood with persons living with dementia and their care partners. Because of this, I became particularly interested in the need for more person-centred dementia care that was focused on meeting the unique needs of the individuals that were behind the medical diagnoses.
My motivation to pursue a career in dementia care has not solely been based on my previous work experience. My grandpa had Lewy body Dementia. I can recall a moment that I shared with my grandpa just weeks before he passed away in the long term care home where he was living. His dementia had progressed to the point where he was for the most part non-verbal, and he required full assistance with his activities of daily living. On one particular visit, my parents and I had brought my grandpa to a room with a piano so my mom could play some of his favourite songs for him. My grandpa loved music, and prior to the progression of his dementia, he was long-time member of a choir. My dad and I (not naturals in the singing department) sang along with my mom as she played. As she was playing, we were surprised to hear another voice join us. It didn’t take long for us to realize that it was my grandpa’s familiar voice that had joined us as we sang. Although my grandpa was changed by his dementia in a number of ways, he still carried pieces of his unique identity, like his love for singing, with him until he died.
It is these personal and professional experiences that have played a major role in my decision and motivation to pursue a career that is focused on person-centred dementia care. As I have only just recently completed the requirements for my Master of Social Work, I feel re-energized to continue to develop my understanding in how best to advocate and work for the provision of quality person-centred care for people living with dementia and their families.
Bethany recently completed a six month practicum with the Alzheimer Society of Canada