Courtney’s unexpected journey to dementia care
Occupational Therapist Courtney had never thought about working in dementia care before she started with Abbeyfield Winnersh — and never expected to enjoy so much.
Courtney always knew she had an interest in working within the healthcare sector, but wasn’t sure which direction to take. Upon completing her degree in occupational therapy and a course in health and social care, she unexpectedly found herself working with Abbeyfield in our dementia care home, Winnersh. It was a job she had never thought about before, and never expected to enjoy it so much.
Tell us a bit about you and your background.
“I was born in Essex, I have two siblings, an older brother and sister – and I was an auntie by the age of ten! I now have four little nephews running around and love to spend time with them when I am free. I went to my local school growing up, which I thoroughly enjoyed! I spent my evenings seeing my friends and attending a variety of different dance classes ranging from pointe, ballroom, Irish, tap, street and Latin; the list goes on – name a dance class, I have probably done it.
"I moved from my family home in Essex to Uxbridge for university when I was 19 years old and lived there for three years before moving to Winnersh for my job with Abbeyfield at age 23.”
What made you want to pursue a career in care?
“I always knew I wanted a career somewhere within the healthcare sector – I had ideas for a career within a fracture clinic, psychology or therapy. In my first year of college, whilst studying A-levels, I stumbled across occupational therapy in a university courses book. I did a quick google search and was instantly intrigued by an occupational therapist that worked within the military with amputees. It was then I decided to switch up my course to psychology A-level and health and social care. I got the grades to go to university and attended for three years, giving me my degree in Occupational Therapy.
“From university, I went on to do a rotational program in a hospital to further my knowledge on the different roles out there and to see what tickled my fancy. Sadly, the rush of the acute hospital did not suit my personality, however I enjoyed the learning opportunities, meeting patients and their families and the supportive teamwork within the NHS. I decided to look for a job where I could get to know my service users better and have the luxury of time to make a real difference.”
What’s a typical day at Abbeyfield Winnersh like for you?
“My day can be extremely varied, as an Occupational Therapist, my duties can range from staff training one day, to therapy another. No two days are ever the same and there’s always plenty to keep me busy. With all the residents in the home, plus the staff, I am never without some training or assessments to complete.
“I often sit down at my computer first thing with a cup of tea and sort through my priorities for the day. I will look through my emails and job list from the day before to see what I need to get to first, along with any meetings I have scheduled. I will normally review any residents that need one in the morning and try and keep my afternoons to training or report writing. My main responsibilities consist of assessing, reporting and communicating residents current abilities, liaising with professionals on resident care needs and anything they may need to help, training the staff on manual handling in dementia care, general administration and assisting the activity team to create an inclusive activity timetable."
How would you describe your role and what’s your favourite part about it?
“I find ways to help aid the day-to-day functioning and engagement of the residents and staff, to help ease their workload and make sure the care given is done so in a person-centred way.
“I also look at ways to make tasks safer and more manageable for staff and residents. Working in dementia care means there are many factors that can contribute to a task going either very well, or becoming challenging. It’s important the staff are aware of what works well for each resident and how they like to carry out the task. Even non-verbal communication can affect the resident’s engagement. Working with people who are living with dementia takes a lot of self-awareness and investigative skills to help you identify how the resident is feeling.
My favourite part about my job is seeing the residents who are further along their dementia journey engage.
“As someone reaches the later stages of their dementia, they can have difficulty participating in tasks they use to be able to do, this can be for several reasons. However if you find the right task and present it in the right way, at the right level, you may get to see that ‘golden nugget’ moment where the residents personality shines through. It’s then that you get a glimpse of them being back in that moment, doing something they loved or feel meaning from.”
What opportunities for progression are there with a career in care?
“A career within care brings lots of opportunities for progression; you can become a senior, manager, move into activities, complete courses, and more! Although, my role is currently the only one throughout Abbeyfield but it’s exciting to think about the possibility of Abbeyfield progressing the role in the future, and seeing the benefits the role can bring to other homes. I look forward to finding out what the future holds and potentially being part of that change.”
Where are you hoping to be positioned in 5 years time?
“Dementia care was a job I fell into, and honestly, I hadn’t considered prior to discovering the role. It was always something I had difficulty with as I saw my nan go through her journey of Dementia. However, as they say ‘if you have met one person with dementia, you have met one person with dementia’. This has been very true to my experience and although it’s not a job I have thought much about prior to getting, it’s one I truly love. I hope that in five years I will be happy in the knowledge that I had made a difference to dementia care and at the very least to the residents of Abbeyfield Winnersh that I have had the pleasure to meet.”
Read more from around Abbeyfield below.
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