WYLD Spotlight on Katarzyna Hess-Wiktor

Katarzyna (Kate) Hess-Wiktor, Ph.D., has committed her life to helping people with Dementia.  In addition to her work during her doctorate, she has since founded a company to support individuals with dementia.  Kate is a WYLD member and looks forward to further engaging WYLD in her activities in the future.

Where do you work and what do you do?

I have founded Minnity, a company that facilitates person-centered care for people living with dementia by providing professional carers with innovative and intuitive digital tools. This is a relatively new turn in my professional life. I began my career in dementia with my doctorate research at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland, while at the same time delivering soft-skills training in business settings. I also volunteered and worked for non-profits and trained in communicating in dementia care. In 2014, I decided to broaden my experience in another country and moved to Sweden, which is valued for its high quality elderly care.

For a couple of years, I worked as a project manager for a company making trainings in elderly and dementia care, developed in Sweden, available worldwide and realized that there is a huge need for efficient tools for caregivers. This is when, at the end of 2017, I decided to fully commit to running a start-up dedicated to creating digital solutions facilitating a person-centered approach and founded Minnity.

What is the most unique aspect of the organization that you work for?

The idea behind Minnity combines the essence of person-centered care in dementia – knowing the person and focusing on their needs and strengths – with practical apps offering a smooth, intuitive user interface. We want to make it as simple as possible to care for and accompany people living with dementia in an individualized way. To that end, we are using user-centered design and new technologies.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?

It is most rewarding to see that my work facilitates people’s lives. When carers are able to understand the person they care for better and improve the way they care, I feel my job was done well.

What is the most challenging aspect of your work? 

Starting one’s own company is an adventure full of challenges. As a start-up founder, I have to perform various roles simultaneously and develop my entrepreneurial skills. There are ups and downs, but as long as I keep focused on my goal, that is delivering a useful and smart digital tool, I know the struggle is worth it.

What is your most proud accomplishment in your professional career?

I have defended my PhD thesis, based on qualitative research on the experience of family caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s disease, which was the first of its kind in Poland. The work I did to accomplish this has hugely influenced my understanding of what dementia and dementia caring is. I am also proud that my initiative was rewarded with the Female Founder of the Year award for pitching about Minnity at the Sweden Demo Day, a national event for Swedish start-ups in December 2017.

What advice would you give someone interested in future work in the dementia field?

Throughout my career, in academia, in non-profits, and in business, I have constantly rediscovered that asking the right question is even more important than finding the answer. This is true for dementia and for so many other fields. However, meeting people living with dementia, their families and carers often confronts us with difficult questions, including ethical and existential ones. Ask them, reflect on what you discover, but dare to accept that you will not receive all the answers. It’s OK to have more questions than answers!

Are there other things about you that you would like to share with WYLD?

Check out the new #dementia_apps channel on WYLD Slack workspace – let’s share our experiences and ideas for digital solutions in dementia!

WYLD members are young professionals working in dementia research, care or advocacy looking to connect with others to amplify their efforts and be part of a global movement to improve the lives of people living with dementia and their families. Our Member Spotlight helps you get to know our members across time zones and borders. Each month, we highlight a new profile and feature the member’s work, ambitions and how they are looking to connect with other members.