PSW praised for focus on ensuring people’s dignity

Birru Firew nominated for Anita St-Jean Memorial Caregiver of the Year Award

October 22, 2013 — Deron Hamel

On any given day, Garden Terrace personal support worker (PSW) Birru Firew can be found working with residents affected by cognitive impairment and going above and beyond his responsibilities.

Firew often takes on tasks that increase his workload, says administrator Carolyn Della Foresta. But because his No. 1 priority is residents he never shows an ounce of stress, she adds, noting he exhibits patience, kindness and genuine caring every day.

Ensuring residents living with dementia maintain their dignity is of utmost importance to Firew, says Della Foresta, adding she has seen the PSW encourage residents to complete tasks independently. When they do, Firew is standing there with a big smile.

This is why the administrator has nominated Firew for the Anita St-Jean Memorial Caregiver of the Year Award, which will be announced Oct. 26 during the You and Me for Memories Evening to Remember Gala in Ottawa.

“His respect and reverence for each of the residents entrusted to his care is evident in his words, his actions and his smile,” says Della Foresta in her nomination.

“His soothing and calm approach with his residents can be described as angelic.  Even though his workload is tremendous and his duties are taxing, no one around him would ever know and the residents he is caring for would certainly never feel that he is experiencing any stress.”

As a testament to Firew’s gift as a caregiver, Della Foresta says the PSW has amazing success working with female residents. This, she notes, is often challenging for male caregivers, but Firew’s caring nature overcomes this, she says.

“I believe that our residents see in Birru what each of us would so desperately long for if we were in their shoes — I believe they see comfort.”

Della Foresta tells the nominating committee that Firew doesn’t expect any recognition for his work — for him it’s all about the residents.

“Nothing with Birru is for show — it is genuinely who he is and how he desires to care for his residents,” she says.

“He can often be seen reassuring a resident, calming them down when they are upset for no apparent reason and in doing so preserving their pride and helping them back to a place of peace.”

The Anita St-Jean Memorial Caregiver of the Year Award is given out annually during the You and Me for Memories and Evening to Remember Gala to front-line caregivers in the Ottawa region who have shown outstanding performance in caring for people with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia.

You and Me for Memories is a grassroots group raising money for Alzheimer’s disease research. It was started in 2008 by family members of Garden Terrace residents.

— More to come