After working as a chef for 18 years, Jayne MacLean knew she wanted a change and wanted to study something new but was unsure of what that should be. Having worked for several years in a nursing home as a catering manager, she had some experience with the aged care environment. So she was looking into the health field when she attended a University of Tasmania Open Day and discovered the Bachelor of Dementia Care, enrolling in 2015.
Working in a nursing home with a really good dementia-specific facility was quite challenging – I felt a little bit inadequate in a lot of ways,” she said of her previous experience. “In hindsight, with what I know now, I could have made a much bigger difference.
Jayne, who graduated in 2021, said studying the Bachelor of Dementia Care with the Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre, proved to her that people can live well with dementia. She said it was vital for people who were diagnosed, their families, their friends, and also the wider community to have a much better understanding about how they can support people living with dementia.
It's certainly made me quite passionate about us needing to seek out people's capabilities while they're living with dementia and find ways to keep them engaged and connected and feeling useful and having a purpose.
Reading about current research was a highlight for Jayne during her studies, as well as being able to analyse and translate that content into practical solutions and strategies. She discovered an enormous amount that we can do every day to help support people living with dementia to live well, not just in an aged care setting, but within the broader social context, as a community and within an organisation.
As her study progressed, Jayne was drawn more to education and advocacy, with the degree providing a deep understanding of dementia and its broader social impacts.
Studying while you are working is a challenge but often necessary when you have other life commitments to manage, such as family and a mortgage. Having the flexibility to study online and part-time helps with this life balance.
The practicalities of online study can also be difficult to adjust to, especially if you are coming into study later in life. However, Jayne experienced tremendous support the whole way through her degree, enjoying a real sense of community with the other students.
It was really nice each semester to pop back onto the discussion boards and see familiar faces and new people coming along and the general sense of community,” she said. “It wasn't something that I thought I would look for, or particularly enjoy, but I found that a really valuable experience.
Studying online also allowed Jayne to build networks throughout the country and in a variety of work environments. There was always someone she could send a text or email to if she had questions about assignments or a challenging work situation.
I enjoyed the variety of assessment tasks. If you felt you were weaker on one format, there was another way for you to shine. If your skills were with making presentations or writing, there was a really nice mix.
Jayne said there were strong benefits to studying dementia care, even for those not working within aged care.
It’s important to understand that it's not just for people who work in aged care or who want to work in a nursing home. Dementia has impacts throughout our whole society".
I really feel quite passionate now about helping people to live their best life with dementia – or regardless of dementia – and to really help enable and empower them and their friends and family and their community to make that happen.