Career Q&A: Uplifting Dementia is a Life Journey and Crusade
In this Career Case Study Series we’ve asked the talented individuals around us to share their stories. Learn from people who have taken a leap of faith in their career and stepped outside their comfort zone. I hope that you can relate to these stories and use them as a source of strength to encourage you to confidently go in the direction of your dreams and live the life you imagine for yourself.
Read the inspiring career story of Leah Bisiani, Uplifting Dementia. Working for the past 25 years to change the culture and philosophy of care delivered to people living with dementia, Leah’s passion for her work is paramount to her success and consequent happiness of others.
Please tell us a little about a day in the working life of Leah
Every day differs enormously. The diversity of need, and the significant gaps within aged care systems, continue to drive me and my desire to make an impact on as huge a scale as possible, creating change in the lives of those living with dementia, their caregivers, the community and the medical sector. Additionally I promote more successful and positive methods of care, to initiate change within the current archaic philosophies and old destructive cultures. Every day is therefore focused on supporting, guiding, researching, providing advice, educating, counselling and consulting. This is the beauty of an industry where I can be utilised in a multifaceted way, as a tool or resource, to reach a greater audience everywhere I turn. It is truly about sharing the joy. Boredom is not an issue in any one of my days.
How does this differ to your career ambitions as a young adolescent?
I wanted to be an actress, because it appealed to my creativity, my verboseness, and my dramatic personality. My mum advised me this was not an option. At the time I really did not have a set direction, bar not wanting to be hideously bored. I identified at an early age my need to be challenged. Nursing sounded like an interesting and stimulating occupation, so I commenced my training at the age of 17 in 1982. Being hospital trained meant that I was always on the move, it appealed to my methodical analytical thought processes, as well as throwing me headfirst into a confronting but inspiring area. Since then, I continue to run headlong into the ever changing future of the medical field, creating change as I push through all the boundaries and myths associated with this rigid but incredibly motivating field.
What was the defining moment that set you on the career path you are on today?
I began working in aged care, in 30 bed nursing home wards, full of frail, malnourished older people with dementia, curled in the foetal position, with rags between their legs, and festering gangrenous sores covering their skeletal bodies. Once you smell the odour of gross neglect it is never forgotten. The conditions were archaic and cruel. The job was purely task orientated and the residents were just over medicated shells. The use of restraint was rampant and disgustingly accepted. Shackles, posy restrainers (tying people to their chairs), trays and beds with frames. I was appalled, disgusted, and dismayed. Thus the turning point and catalyst to my crusade for the rest of my life began here. Educating myself, working my way up the hierarchy by becoming more qualified, polished, experienced, published, and verified, finally gained me positions of power. This allowed me to finally give a voice to, and advocate for those who were crying out to be heard.
Who inspires you both in life and in business?
People living with dementia inspire me daily. When I enter their reality, it enables me to understand as best as I can, what courageous and inspirational people they are. They live a life so much more difficult than ours, and despite our poor attempts to enter that world, they continue to prevail. This is true strength! When I grasp life through their eyes, this inspires me to be a better version of myself.
We are capable of making our dreams a reality, and inspiring others to believe in our dreams, thus making change happen. Seeing the joy, the smiles, and the happiness is my reward. My passion continues to ignite from the energy these amazingly resilient and wonderful people show me by allowing me to go on this journey with them.
What is one of the hardest decisions you’ve had to make in your journey to success and career happiness?
Each time I have created a specific environment in which people living with dementia can live and thrive, I have had to make the soul destroying choice to move on to further my career, and to help people on a greater level. This has meant, every time, that the driving force changes and the people living with dementia in that specific environment are negatively affected by this change. It always saddens me. It is unfortunately unavoidable. To help a greater number of people and share the knowledge further, some people are unfortunately negatively affected by this decision.
What is one of the best decisions you’ve had to make in your journey to success and career happiness?
Deciding when I completed my nursing degree, as a junior nurse, that I didn’t enjoy being powerless. I wanted to make a difference. I therefore made the decision at that point, to do what was required to establish myself in a position of authority where I proved by example, and could establish myself as an authority in the field. I envisioned this as a life journey, as a crusade. I understood the steps required, at this young age. To make the change happen, it would take time, within this evidence based industry. I felt it worth the effort.
How have these decisions reflected on your personal happiness?
Amazingly. Epic. Seeing the joy, the relief, the happiness, the renewed life in the eyes and souls of those I care for is my reward. To create happiness, simply, makes me happy. It isn’t that complicated. Achieving my goals and relishing the challenge impacts directly on my personal happiness. My personal happiness is thus enhanced by what I have achieved in my career. Every single day there is something simple in my life that contributes to my happiness. Having said that, I need to express, my daughter is singularly, without doubt, my greatest achievement. She provides me with my most precious and cherished form of happiness. To have that balance is truly extraordinary and I never take one moment of it for granted.
What advice would you give to someone starting their career/business in your industry?
Risk more than others think is safe,
Care more than others think is wise
Dream more than others think is practical
Expect more than others think is possible.
If you have the courage of your convictions, then you can make your dreams a reality. You can make change happen. In other words, work hard, be an expert and role model in your field, lead innovation, and think outside the square. My motto is: “Be the change you want to see in the world” – Gandhi.
Thank you Leah, for sharing your career journey and story with Think Bespoke’s community. You are truly inspiring and my journey with my own dear Mum’s dementia would not have been the same without your expert counsel and deep commitment. Connect with Leah Bisiani here.
As one of Asia Pacific’s Top 10 LinkedIn Experts I share fortnightly news with my global email community and run monthly online Lunch and Learns to teach professionals how to unlock LinkedIn. Sign up to my newsletter to help you learn LinkedIn – the right way!