Sharing the knowledge - Helping Hand's dementia scholarship

Dementia scholarship – sharing the knowledge

In 2020, we launched the Helping Hand Dementia Scholarship in memory of Anne Gibson. This valuable scholarship is a demonstration of our commitment to create a learning organisation, and to deliver exceptional care for our residents and clients.

Through generous donations from key partners and stakeholders, we have enabled eighteen staff members across the organisation in the first year to undertake further study and professional development in the area of dementia education.

Here is John Blackwell’s story.


Sharing the knowledge

Home care worker, John Blackwell helps people to live independently in their home. He works in regional South Australia and lives in a tiny community in the mid-north called Gulnare, which has a population of 30.

When John joined Helping Hand 14 months ago, he brought first-hand experience and knowledge about Dementia care practice to the role. He has worked in residential care, where he focused on caring for people living with dementia and has a Bachelor of Dementia Care from the University of Tasmania.

When Helping Hand launched its first Dementia Scholarship, in memory of Anne Gibson, John was keen to take up the opportunity.

The scholarship was open to anyone in the organisation who wanted to learn more about people living with dementia and who had a passion for creating positive change by sharing their knowledge in the working environment.

John’s enquiring mind, his quest for knowledge (he also has Degrees in Cinematography and English); and his passion to share his expertise made him an ideal candidate.

John applied to participate in the International Dementia Conference 2020 – Care in the Age of Outrage, presented by Hammond Care. Held in Sydney, the conference was live-streamed and featured speakers from around the world.

‘Even though I had a lot of knowledge and experience in working with people living with dementia, there are always new things to learn. Things change and it’s important to keep up to date,’ says John.

John’s approach to documenting the conference; his attention to detail and his commitment to sharing knowledge is impressive. He even took the time to research the speakers prior to the conference going live.

One of the benefits of the scholarship opportunity was that John did not need to take unpaid or paid leave to participate. However, as all the lectures and presentations stayed online for a month, John chose not to take time off, and ‘attended’ lectures and presentations on the weekend. In all, he watched 42 presentations and drew on his experience as a student preparing assignments to document his findings.

‘My intention is to share my notes and research. So far, I am up to more than 9,000 words and I expect it to get to 20,000 words by the time I am finished. There were more than 80 presentations to choose from and I selected those that would be more relevant to Home Care workers who have clients that are living with dementia. When you go into someone’s home, you are not just supporting your client, but their partner as well. It helps to understand what it’s like for a carer living with someone who has dementia.’

One of the more memorable presentations for John was a presentation called Dementia can be beautiful, which told the story of a mother’s journey with dementia, through the eyes of her daughter and which revealed the beautiful and surprising moments that could be shared in that journey.

While the conference has not necessarily changed the way John works, it has reaffirmed what he does and how he does it.

‘It has helped to reinforce and augment my engagement with clients living with dementia. It has helped to engender a more holistic view of the support that I provide as a Care Worker in the community and that Helping Hand provides as an organisation,’ says John.

The one take-away John would like to share, is to remind everyone that the real experts on dementia are the people living with dementia.

‘It’s important to listen to them, to include them in discussion and for them to be part of the process.’

For further information on the Helping Hand Dementia Scholarship, or to make a donation to the ongoing fund, please visit The Helping Hand Dementia Scholarship page.

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