There’s not many jobs where you can turn up to work dressed as an Irish bar wench without anyone batting an eyelid.
But for Pauline Plewinski, it’s all part of the job.
The Whangarei-based diversional therapist trainee says the greatest skill anyone in her line of work needs is a sense of humour. That, and the ability to cater for the unexpected.
She works for Alzheimers Northland in its Whangarei day centre, which caters for around 20 to 25 people with various forms of dementia.
Plewinski says the most important part of her job is to ensure her clients have a safe space to come and have fun. This is not only therapeutic for the clients, but it gives their family and carers some time to have a break and recharge their batteries, because as she says, caring for someone with dementia is a full-time job.
“People with dementia often have sleep disturbance, so they can be up all night, and they do need a lot of supervision,” Plewinski says.
“So, the day centre gives carers some respite so they can have a sleep or do something nice for themselves like get their hair done or just do the grocery shopping.”
“Dementia is sadly a debilitating condition and families often remark how much it changes their loved one, that they are no longer the person they once were. But through play and laughter, it’s as though we peel back the layers and help them to be the person they used to be,” she says.
Plewinski says working with older people has always been her passion, but now through hands-on-experience with her employer and the support of her manager Kevin Salmon and the Industry Training Organisation (ITO), Careerforce, she is on her way to gaining the New Zealand Apprenticeship in Diversion Therapy, a Level 4 NZQA-approved qualification.
“Although my background is in aged care and dementia care, through studying the diversion therapy I am gaining a much deeper understanding of how the games and activities help our clients.”