Dementia and the importance of connection - a personal carer's perspective
Patrick Kenny has pursued a variety of professions and experiences in his time, from working with New South Wales TAFE to assisting with interstate freight for transport company Toll. For the last two years, he has supported families as a personal care assistant at Blue Care Wynnum.
‘I had a big career change in 2015 and went to TAFE to get my qualifications. I ended up finding work with Blue Care and it has just been a perfect fit for me. I love my job. I am really happy.’
As a Blue Care personal carer, Patrick has developed invaluable experience and understanding around dementia that has helped him support not just those living with it, but the families who support them. Patrick is mindful of the challenges that dementia creates within a household for both client and carers and treats every visit as an opportunity to support the whole family.
Discussing the importance of in-home respite, Patrick says ‘It allows the carer to have a break. And they need to have a break. They are caring for their loved one 24/7. Whether it is just to go shopping or to have a cup of coffee and a chat with a friend, it’s important they have that.’
This empathy for carers has helped Patrick become a trusted and welcomed presence in the homes of many.
‘You try and let them know that what they have done is a great thing. I tell them to look after themselves as well and if they need to talk about things, then talk it out with me.’
For Patrick, it is often the simple things that have a major impact for clients and their families. ‘Just getting them out of the door and giving them something else to think about is important.’
Calling to mind one client he works with, Patrick said ‘I might take him for a drive down to the Port of Brisbane where we look at the boats and the ships being unloaded.'
‘We go to the airport sometimes and just watch the planes. It depends what they like, but usually it’s nice to just get them out of the house.’
Finding connections in his client’s interests has been a key ingredient to helping open up their worlds beyond the boundaries of home.
‘Sometimes clients can’t leave the house. They are stuck there, in that house, all the time. We are all social creatures in some way and it’s great to have a chat with them on any old thing.’
On the importance of connection, Patrick said ‘you’re walking into a stranger’s home in the first instance and if you can make that connection, you put everyone at ease.’
Patrick feels that things are changing for the positive around dementia awareness. He believes that taking the time to read and learn about the condition can help improve individual understanding towards dementia, how we perceive those living with dementia and how we support them.
'I've just about got tears welling up in my eyes talking about it because I love my job so much.'
‘There is a lot to it and we are an ageing population. It is going to be a bigger issue and as time goes on there will be more people staying at home if they can,’ Patrick said.
Patrick builds his care on a foundation of understanding and empathy for every person he visits. His personable approach continues to create meaningful connections with clients and families impacted by dementia, at a time when connection is needed most.
‘Humans are human, we are complex. But in most instances, you can turn something around with a little understanding,’ he said.