Ozcare volunteer, Brad Wearne, who was seriously injured in a road accident has won two prestigious awards in Volunteer Recognition Week.
Brad lost a leg after the motorcycle accident at Oonoonba in May 2013, forcing him “into a really hard place where I had to find a way out”.
He did that through volunteering at Ozcare’s Villa Vincent aged care home in Townsville, where he has spent countless hours helping dementia patients.
That work has earned Brad recognition as winner of the North Queensland Volunteer of the Year Award and winner of the Queensland Volunteer of the Year Award.
It’s been a big month for Brad – he married Melanie on Saturday 19 May on a perfect Townsville autumn day.
“Working with people living with dementia has been a massive eye opener for me – everyone should try it,” Brad said.
“I’ve been through some hard times but that doesn’t compare to what they’re going through. Volunteering has really got me back on my feet after a pretty tough time. It’s so fulfilling.
“I wouldn’t have survived if I hadn’t found Villa Vincent – this place saved my life.”
Brad’s work with the Villa Vincent dementia patients has covered a variety of opportunities. He has done everything from playing cards to pulling apart car engines with residents.
“I arrive in the morning and sit down and have a coffee with the residents to determine their moods. Depending on how they’re feeling I’ll then decide what to do. If someone seems down in the dumps I’ll put music on or take them to do woodworking,” he said.
“I’ve actually never done carpentry before, but since being here I’ve found the residents love it. We’ve set up a work bench and made wine racks, planter boxes, a chicken coop and toy trucks, all of which have been used to decorate our outdoor area.”
Earlier this year, Brad organised for a car engine to be donated to the facility and he has been tinkering on it with residents – sharing with them what he learnt from his father as a child pulling apart World War II jeep engines.
Brad explains that every day is different and it’s about bringing positive direction to the residents’ lives, something he finds so satisfying he describes it as addictive.
“The first time I met one of the residents here, I could see it was hard for him to talk. I knew he used to work in a hardware store so I gave him a hammer to hold. His excitement was uncontainable, he started tapping everything,” Brad said.
“If he’s having a rough day I’ll often take him out to Bunnings. He feels at home there surrounded by hammers and nails.
“That’s the thing about this place – we get to know the residents so well that they’re like family. We know how to calm them down when they’re agitated and what makes them happy.
“There can be a negative perception about aged care and how people get treated but from what I’ve seen at Ozcare, everyone gets treated like family.”