Building bridges for fullness of life: A day in the life of a Diversional Therapist

“What’s that?” Is a question Jenny Puxley, a Diversional Therapist (DT) with Baptcare’s Western Metro Family and Community Service, often hears when she contacts new clients for an appointment.

“It’s actually a title that came into vogue after the Second World War,” explains Jenny. “It’s about diverting the attention away from a client’s illness, loneliness, or anxiety.”

In a role which she feels truly embodies Baptcare’s mission, Jenny works with her clients and their families to develop sustainable recreation and leisure programs that they can maintain independently, or with support from professional carers.

“We partner with our clients, working with them so that they can determine their goals and achieve fullness of life. It can be through socialisation, in a physical capacity, or stimulating them cognitively.”

DTs look at their client’s life history, including their past and current interests, and compare this with functional and social-emotional assessments, to identify each person’s individual needs. Encompassing cognitive, physical, sensory, social and cultural/spiritual support, Jenny believes the care that we are able to provide at Baptcare is unique to other organisations.

“We build a bridge,” Jenny said. “Who the person is, what they’d like to do, and how we help them do it. That’s the whole job really.”

While most of Jenny’s clients are older, she has worked with a number of younger people living with Huntington’s Disease as well as Younger Onset Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.

A benefit of working in an organisation that works across both disability and aged care is being able to participate in both sectors, Jenny said.

“The disability sector isn’t necessarily educated in dementia care,” she said, “I’d like to stay involved and see if there’s that role in the middle, that’s my personal aim.”