Where are they now?
We caught up with Evthoxia Lynch who was one of our first graduates in the Bachelor of Dementia Care and Valedictorian of 2016. Here, Evthoxia talks about her motivation for studying and what got her into the degree.
"I decided to study the Bachelor of Dementia Care after completing the Understanding Dementia MOOC offered by the Wicking Centre at UTAS. I was surprised to learn that dementia is not a normal part of ageing. The MOOC introduced me to the biological effects that diseases that cause dementia have on the brain. I found this fascinating and wanted to learn more."
Throughout her study, Evthoxia found a supporting teaching environment enabled her to succeed.
"My journey throughout the degree was generally smooth sailing! Initially, I was not confident in my ability to work at the academic level required but the lecturers and tutors were very supportive in teaching us not only about dementia, but also about how to approach scientific research and communicate in an academic fashion. They set us up to succeed. Alongside the supportive faculty, the passion and life experience of my fellow students were a highlight of the degree. I found learning in the online community an enjoyable, supportive and enlightening experience."
Undertaking the degree also provided awareness into the impacts of dementia and supported her career at the time.
"It also gave me insight into the social impact that dementia can have on the broader community, as well as the individual living with the disease. Working as a counsellor at the time, the social impact of living with dementia was particularly interesting to me."
Now the Bachelor of Dementia Care Degree has encouraged her academic journey by taking on a Masters of Teaching in the hope this will enhance her skills in advocating for people with dementia.
"Regardless of whether I end up working at a school or elsewhere, dementia touches the lives of people from every walk of life as friends and relatives are impacted. I regularly encounter people who have questions or want to talk about their experience of dementia. The Bachelor of Dementia Care has given me the knowledge and compassion to be aware of the needs of people living with dementia and be a support to those whose lives are impacted by the disease directly and indirectly."
Michael Preston was one of the first graduates in the Associate Degree in Dementia Care at the University of Tasmania’s Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre. The Dementia Care degree program is the first of its kind in Australia, created to assist graduates to develop advanced problem-solving skills and specialised knowledge in dementia. This provides opportunities for a wide range of career paths in the aged care sector and other healthcare environments.
After recently graduating from this course, Michael talks about the motivation behind starting an Associate Degree in Dementia Care:
“I had been working in the aged care industry and caring for people with dementia. I noticed staff were frustrated with the ability to find strategies available to care for people living with dementia. There had been some smaller half day courses I had previously done, but none that could come close to what I wanted. So when the opportunity came around to do the degree, I jumped at it. It really spanned my knowledge in the field.”
Michael was working full time when he started the degree, making the online study option a practical choice, enabling him to study outside of his busy work schedule:
“I wanted to achieve so I took the study very seriously. At first it was hard until I learned more about MYLO (the University’s online learning system). Now I love online study. I really enjoyed my experience doing the dementia care degree. Knowledge and learning are very inspiring.”
Since graduating in 2015, Michael has moved to New South Wales, into a new role as Art & Music Specialist at a Memory Support Unit, where he is able to utilise the skills and strategies learnt during his time studying at UTAS:
“I have also joined the Kiama Dementia-Friendly Alliance Group, which includes people with dementia and representatives from local government, community organisations, businesses and schools whocome together to make Kiama a welcoming place for anyone living with dementia. The group is continuing to find ways to improve the quality of life for people living with dementia and those that care for them.”
Michael recalls one such incident that saw his skills and knowledge, gained through his studies, being put into practice:
“There was one person living with dementia who we were looking after, who was getting very distressed, but we learned strategies in the degree about how to bring as much of the outside world inside to improve their livelihoods. I am so thankful to be part of this whole journey.”
I believe my cognitive skills have increased since starting studying online, and expanded my knowledge base, enabling me to make more than a difference in the lives of people living with dementia.”
I am grateful for the opportunity to have studied this course and the new horizons that have been created; lifetime learning can benefit us all at any age. After all, I will always be the first man in Australia to have obtained a degree in dementia care."