For Danielle Dyce, caring for the elderly has been a constant in her life.
At first it was helping out after school at the nursing home her parents owned.
From there she took on a variety of caring roles and also worked as a legal clerk, before returning to aged care after her children were born.
Her sister also works in the aged care sector and pursued a career in nursing, but for Danielle, the non-clinical side of things is where she feels most at home.
“I’m not interested in giving medications and fixing wounds. I’ve never been very good with blood,” she laughs.
“I’ve stuck with care because care is what I do best”.
The 55-year-old has always liked to work with residents with dementia.
“I just have this affinity with them. I like to be their voice and advocate for them,” she says.
“I’ve been appalled with some of the things I’ve seen…. Residents so drugged up because people didn’t know how to deal with their behavioural symptoms. I made it my mission to find ways to change their behaviour without medication.”
Given her interest and experience, signing up for the Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre's Bachelor of Dementia Care seemed like a logical next step for Danielle.
But initially she thought she just wouldn’t be able to fit studying into her already busy schedule.
“They offered the option to just try one subject and it was The Arts and Dementia Care,” she says.
“I thought I’d give it a go. I did enjoy it so I thought why not keep going?”
The online delivery of the course was key for Danielle, who lives in rural New South Wales. It meant she could fit the demands of the degree in and around her work and personal commitments.
Now nearing the end of the course, she admits she’s going to miss it.
“I’ve obviously had a lot of hands on experience of managing behaviour and care. But for me, finding out more about the research and the different kinds of dementia and medication was really fascinating.”
The aged care facility where Danielle works has a dedicated and recently expanded dementia unit. Residents live in purpose-built group houses that feel more like homes than an aged care facility. There’s a focus on making residents as independent as possible and organising activities that bring them joy and meaning.
Danielle oversees all the non-clinical care in her newly created role of Dementia Care Program Coordinator.
I don’t think they would have created that position for me if I hadn’t taken on the degree,” she says. “So it really has benefited my career.
Caring for those with dementia has also become personal for Danielle, with her own mother now in residence at the facility she works at.
“ I don’t know whether she’d still be with us if she stayed in her own home but here she is going from strength to strength.”
“I do know how hard it is for families. The most important thing is providing a quality of life. They may not be there for a long time but they are there for a good time.”
Danielle believes there will be an increasing need for more qualified practitioners such as herself in the aged care sector
She urges other to consider studying for the Bachelor of Dementia Care.
“There’s so many different options – not just a job like mine.”