UNCG Alumna Forges Her Own Path In Dementia Care

Posted on March 22, 2024

UNCG alumna Rachael Wonderlin smiles

Finding her way into dementia care consulting wasn’t always a clear path for UNC Greensboro alumna Rachael Wonderlin ’13 M.S. Some in the healthcare industry even told her it couldn’t be done.

During my first internship in graduate school, I had to interview a doctor and I told her I wanted to go around the country to help redesign dementia care communities,” Wonderlin says. “She laughed at me. She told me: ‘That’s not a real job. No one will hire you.’”

Wonderlin didn’t let those words deter her – she even found some truth in them: “She was right. It’s not a real job. So, I invented it.”

She now owns Dementia By Day, a consulting company that works with senior living communities around the country to help them build dementia care programs, including training, educating, and providing resources to caregivers. Her master’s degree in gerontology from UNCG made her ambition a reality.


Gerontology is the study of the aging process and issues related to an aging society. It’s a field that will be in demand in the coming years. According to North Carolina’s Office of State Budget and Management, 20% of North Carolinians will be 65 years and older by the end of 2024.

UNCG offers an accelerated master’s program in gerontology along with a traditional master of science degree, and post-baccalaureate certificate. All the programs are fully online, and it is one of only two accredited gerontology programs on the East Coast. The program is part of the Department of Social Work in the School of Health and Human Sciences.

“I spent a lot of time with my grandparents growing up,” says Wonderlin. “In high school, I volunteered at a skilled nursing facility to get some hours for the National Honor Society and I really enjoyed it. I found that I’m much better at communicating with older people than I am with children. Dementia care communication is very much an art form and I just took to it.”


After earning her graduate degree, Wonderlin landed a job as the dementia care director of a senior living community in Burlington, North Carolina and started a blog about dementia care titled “Dementia By Day.” Over the next few years, Wonderlin moved around to two more dementia care communities and published her first of three books: “When Someone You Know Is Living In A Dementia Care Community”, with Johns Hopkins University Press But right as her book was published, she was laid off.

“I was really tired of working for other people and I felt like there was an opportunity for me to do so much more,” Wonderlin says.

So, she launched her business, also named “Dementia By Day,” working to take her UNCG education to the next level. She earned her first big consulting client in 2016 and has continued to see success, being awarded the Alumni Pacesetter Award by UNCG’s social work department in 2020.

“I would not be able to do what I do now without my master’s degree from UNCG,” she says. “Johns Hopkins University Press would have never published my books and, back in 2013, there weren’t a lot of gerontology programs, so UNCG was offering and continues to offer something unique.”


“My advice for people would be to go into senior living in some capacity,” she says. “People tend to think they have to go into something clinical, and they don’t. We need good people on the social side: people who think about programming, who think about what the lives of older adults look like day to day.”

Wonderlin says it’s also important to get real-world experience, especially if you want to work in dementia care consulting.

LinkedIn has helped Wonderlin continue to make connections professionally and is something she says can help recent graduates find jobs, but she also says being realistic is important.

“You’re probably not going to get your master’s degree and immediately get this amazing job because companies are looking for experience,” she says. “So, temper your expectations and make as many connections as possible, especially with something like LinkedIn.”

Wonderlin says working with older adults is rewarding and wants to change the way people look at aging and dementia.

“People tend to think about aging as sad and scary. There’s a lot of negativity associated with aging. I don’t think of dementia care as sad at all. Dementia gives us gifts,” says Wonderlin. “A lot of times people living dementia don’t realize they have dementia so they’re living in a reality that their brain provided for them which is sometimes nicer than the reality they’re living in.”

Story by Avery Craine Powell, University Communications
Photography courtesy of Rachel Wonderlin

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