In Conversation with Occupational Therapist, Dawn Ching

The job scope of an occupational therapist ranges from enhancing physical and psychological functions and facilitating independent living to improving the lives of people with disabilities (PWD) or special needs [...]

The job scope of an occupational therapist ranges from enhancing physical and psychological functions and facilitating independent living to improving the lives of people with disabilities (PWD) or special needs and helping them resume what they used to do before acquiring their disabilities. It is an occupation that requires a lot of heart and love for people.

Under the SPD Therapy Hub arrangement, Dawn Ching supports SASCO DACE, a dementia daycare centre catering to the elderly with cognitive impairments. We speak to Dawn on her responsibilities as an occupational therapist and what motivates and spurs her on in her work.

Q1: What was your reaction when you found out that you will be posted to support SASCO DACE?
I enjoy working with people and wanted a job that enables me to be able to constantly interact and communicate. Working with the elderly is also an interest of mine. My grandmother has dementia, which allows me to obtain a deeper understanding of the condition. Thus, when I knew that I was going to be posted at SASCO DACE, it was something that I really looked forward to.

Q2: How long has it been since you started working at SASCO DACE?
I’ve been working at SASCO for almost three years. This is my first job and I really enjoy it!

Q3: What are your roles as an occupational therapist?
As I work mostly with the elderly with dementia, my main role is to help clients with cognitive impairments resume what they used to do before acquiring their disabilities, re-integrating them into the society and performing the roles they initially held. We try to help clients maintain their cognitive and physical functions, allowing them to have an overall better quality of life. I also do behavioural management, which involves identifying behavioural triggers in clients and managing them accordingly. We also work in teams to construct care plans for our clients after identifying their behavioural triggers and having a deeper understanding of their personalities and traits.

Q4: What are some of the unique and challenging behaviours that you have encountered from people with dementia?
Behavioral examples include physical or verbal aggressions. As those with dementia often lack motivation to do or accomplish anything, apathy is something we have to constantly manage and deal with as well.

Q5: How do you manage these behaviours in people with dementia?
We look closely and identify what triggers these behaviours. We also look into the clients’ traits and personalities, identifying what they like and dislike, their interests and hobbies. By tackling the cases with a holistic approach, we can form a better care plan for each client.

Q6: You mentioned that you often conduct group and individual activities. What are some of these activities?
There is a range of activities that we conduct. They include physical and cognitive games, cooking groups, art and craft sessions, and reminiscence therapy as well. We also keep clients informed of the current affairs in Singapore and the world. Ultimately, we want to re-integrate them into society, thus it is important that they keep up to date with what is going on.

Q7: Can you explain more about reminiscence therapy?
Reminiscence therapy is a psycho-social intervention whereby we get clients with dementia to come together and socialise, with the aim of building up their communication skills through constant interaction. The therapy sessions also help to boosts clients’ confidence and self-esteem as they make progress towards re-integrating into the society. We understand the importance of having positive dynamics within the group, and seek to maintain healthy dynamics by picking the right group of clients for the therapy sessions.

Q8: What challenges do you face as an occupational therapist?
One challenge faced is the management of behavioural psychological symptoms of dementia as the behaviours can range from mild to severe, and it often requires us to work with the family members to come up with the proper care plan for the client. It is our responsibility to guide and educate the family members.

Q9: What are some of the memorable experiences you have encountered?
I feel joyful and satisfied whenever a client is able to go back to his or her daily life and live normally. We can rejoice and cheer as a team because we know that the care plans we have constructed worked and effectively aided the client. It is hard to pick a memorable experience, as every day is an experience for us, being able to witness breakthroughs and victories in our clients, and being able to walk the journey with them.

Q10: What advice would you give to an aspiring student who wishes to pursue a career in occupational therapy?
As an occupational therapist, every day is different and dynamic. We get to experience many situations and it really takes an open heart, to learn and be willing to take up new things. Good teamwork and communication skills are also required, as we work in teams and speak with family members a lot. Ultimately, it is a fulfilling career!