TOP AWARD: Jennie Hewitt with one of her patients at Wommin Bay, Kingscliff.
TOP AWARD: Jennie Hewitt with one of her patients at Wommin Bay, Kingscliff. Scott Powick

Inspiring work earns accolade

A WOMAN who spends her days helping seniors live positively has received hugely positive news of her own - a lifetime achievement award at the 2018 ACSA NSW and ACT Aged Care Awards.

Jennie Hewitt, who has been a Positive Living co-ordinator at Feros Care's Wommin Bay residential village at Kingscliff since early 2015, received the Aged and Community Services Australia honour at its awards ceremony in Sydney in late July.

She will now represent NSW and the ACT at the national awards ceremony at the ACSA National Summit in September.

Ms Hewitt has worked with seniors as a physiotherapist since 1989 and in the aged care sector specifically since 2008.

She completed her PhD through the University of Sydney in July after carrying out a first-of-its- kind clinical trial to test the effect of an evidence-based strength and balance program on falls and quality of life in residential aged care.

The Sunbeam Trial, which has since been internationally published, included 16 aged care facilities and 221 residents with an average age of 87 years, up to 101 years.

The ground-breaking results showed a 55 per cent reduction in falls for participants - the most positive outcome of any similar trial to date.

Ms Hewitt joined Feros Care in January 2015 and has been responsible for mentoring and co-ordinating the positive living teams and volunteers at its residential villages in Bangalow, Wommin Bay and Byron Bay.

During that time, Ms Hewitt has developed and implemented a range of highly innovative and evidence-based wellbeing programs that have improved residents' quality of life; while also supervising physiotherapy students from the University of Sydney on clinical placements.

"What (Jennie) does makes such a difference in the residents' lives,” said Deb Morrison, care manager at Feros Village Wommin Bay.

"She focuses on giving each one a sense of purpose and something to look forward to. She works with the families too, to make sure they get the right things.”

Ms Hewitt said she was humbled by the recognition and award.

"I genuinely love my work and feel so blessed and inspired by an amazing team at Feros Care and the residents in our villages,” she said.

"It is the collective good humour and stoicism of these wonderful older adults that has inspired me to strive for change.”

Driven by her determination to challenge the way therapy is funded by government in residential care, Ms Hewitt has presented the results of the Sunbeam trial to the Minister for Aged Care Ken Wyatt, and shared findings with the working party currently reviewing aged care funding.

The work is now being used to inform policy makers of new effective therapies for the group.

Inspired by the success of the program, Feros Care has expanded the clinical exercise therapy to its other villages.