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

Is coconut oil the answer to the Alzheimer’s question?


Thank you to for the photo enhancement.

A study is looking into the possibility of preventing, controlling cognitive impairment

October 15, 2013 — Deron Hamel

Coconut oil is the latest natural remedy researchers are giving serious consideration to in effort to prevent and control Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

While there’s yet to be published clinical evidence attributing coconut oil to preventing or treating Alzheimer’s disease, a five-year U.S. study examining the substance’s effects on 65 people with mild to moderate cognitive impairment is expected to be released next year.

There is also anecdotal evidence supporting coconut oil’s positive effect on people with cognitive impairment, including the husband of Dr. Mary Newport, the researcher leading the study.

Newport, a doctor who heads a neonatology ward in Tampa, Florida, began including four teaspoons of coconut oil into her husband’s diet each day.

Then she began noticing improvements in her husband’s condition.

“Before the coconut oil, he could not tie his shoes,” Newport said in an interview with CTV News, adding her husband also had gait issues.

“That improved. He walked normally and he was able to start running again. He was able to start reading again, his conversation improved dramatically and then over several months we saw improvements in his memory.”

Newport says before she started giving her husband coconut oil he was not responding to his medications.

Some experts believe the key to using coconut oil as a treatment for cognitive impairment might be molecules called ketones. Ketones are produced when fat is turned into energy.

An estimated 500,000 Canadians are living with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia. Cognitive impairment also affects the majority of long-term care home residents.

While the Alzheimer Society of Canada underscores that there is yet to be conclusive evidence pointing to the impact of coconut oil on people with cognitive impairment, studies like this are important to finding a cure.

“(T)he interest in coconut oil reinforces the value we place on research,” the society’s website says. “It’s our best hope of finding effective treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias and improving the quality of life and care for those affected.”

If you would like to comment on this issue, please e-mail deron(at), or call 800-294-0051, ext. 23.

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