Geoff, 67, is inspired by his mum to study for a dementia degree

Our care quality manager, Geoff Aris, has been inspired to study for a degree in dementia studies after watching his mum struggle with the condition.

Geoff is working towards the qualification at the age of 67, having left school in 1966 with just one GCE in technical drawing and a CSE in woodwork.  He was inspired to return to higher education after watching his mum, Ivy Brown, deal with memory problems towards the end of her life.

“My mum started having problems with her memory in her mid-eighties,” said Geoff.  “In her mind she was living about 20 years ago and constantly talked about her twin sister, who had died some years earlier.  She would tell me that she’d seen her sister that day and she was shocked when I told her that it just wasn’t possible.

“I would always correct her and try to get her to live in the present day which I now know was completely the wrong thing to do.  It didn’t help her at all.”

Geoff began working in the care sector four years ago after he ‘retired’ from three decades as a corporate accountant.  He started out supporting adults with learning disabilities to live independently, then took a position as a care assistant at Barrowhill Hall Care Home in Rocester where he now works as the care quality manager.

He is doing the degree course at home around the commitments of his full time job.

“I never imagined this is where my career would go, and certainly not at this age,” he said.  “I went straight into an apprenticeship in the car industry after leaving school and I worked as an engineer for more than 20 years.  I did my first degree in applied economics but that was 30 years ago.  When the company I was working for decided to downsize, I needed a new direction.

“I didn’t want to stop working and my experience with my mum inspired me to move into the care sector.”

Geoff’s studies are being put into practice at Barrowhill Hall where he is setting up a residents’ group for people to share their views and is developing other ways of reducing isolation and building relationships between individuals.

The number of people in Staffordshire aged 65+ with dementia is estimated to reach more than 20,000 by 2030, an increase of 86% since 2012.

Home manager, Martin Rogerson said; “Geoff is a great asset to us here and we are very impressed that he’s taking this degree course.  His age and experience are benefits to us because he can relate well to residents and their families.  His varied career means he has a wide range of skills but most importantly he has a natural connection with residents.”

Geoff grew up in Coventry with his mum and stepfather.  She took secretarial jobs to support him and his three siblings.

“She was a very proud woman who did her best for us,” remembered Geoff.  “She had standards – we were never allowed to have our elbows on the table!  We all had chores and mine was the shopping.  I was never given a list; I had to remember what I needed to buy and how much I could spend.  But if I found a bargain she let me keep the change!”

Geoff is hoping to graduate in the summer with a BSc Hons in Dementia Studies from the University of Bradford.

“I didn’t give Mum the support she needed because I didn’t have the knowledge,” remembered Geoff.  “I want to keep learning about dementia and improving the quality of life for everyone at Barrowhill Hall.  Once I’ve got my degree, who knows, I might go on to study something else.  I’ll be almost 70 but that’s just a number!”

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