The $300 ELERA Nursing Prize, won this year by Edith Cowan University student Teagan Bewick, is awarded in honour of the contribution of the nursing profession to the care and support of people living with dementia and their families and in memory of the prize donor’s parents, who both had dementia in late life and were able to remain at home because of the extraordinary nursing care and support they received.
“Mum loved the nurses who visited her at home several times a week,” explained the donor, who wishes to remain anonymous. “She said they were kind – lent her books and magazines, brought her small treats like a flower or a chocolate, painted her nails and gave her hair a really good brushing, helped her wash her clothes, sometimes got something she needed at the shop for her, looked at photos of us over and over. They took her to the beach to walk on the sand and paddle in the ocean, out for fish and chips and to the fruit shop – all things she couldn’t have done by herself.
“None of these small acts were in their job description and our mother, who was a shy person, warmed to each one of them and remembered each of them by name for a very long time. From our perspective they took great care in all they did for her, knew her as a person and eased the anxiety we felt because we were not able to visit her very often.
“Dad was not keen on having anyone, especially a health professional, in his home. He was affectionate, curious and told great jokes. But as time passed he struggled with losing his independence and was easily irritated and upset. It was a struggle to get him to eat well, have showers and put clean clothes on, and to get him to be interested in doing things he had enjoyed all his life. But the nurses persisted and to see him enjoying a cuppa, listening to ABC Classic radio, playing a hand of cards or explaining how to peel a prawn and gut a fish with them was magic.
“We hope this small token of respect and gratitude for the skills and care of nurses might inspire a young nurse to commit to a career in the care of people living with dementia.”