23 December 2022

Improved care for patients with Parkinson’s is personal for UC nursing student

| Emma Larouche
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Annette Richardson and Jodi Rawlinson

Annette Richardson presents University of Canberra nursing student Jodi Rawlinson with the Alan Richardson Award. Photo: Tyler Cherry.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be aware that this article contains names and/or images of deceased persons.

Jodi Rawlinson has lived experience of caring for someone with Young Onset Parkinson’s.

Her mother, Evelyn Dianne Dayman, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease when she was just 38 and passed away three years ago, aged 73.

“Knowing what I know now, the many health issues she had during my childhood were probably signs that Mum had developed Parkinson’s when she was much younger,” Jodi says.

“When I was in primary school, there were times when Mum couldn’t get out of bed because she felt locked up, and that’s enough to make me think these were signs of the disease well before she was 30.”

Jodi was 18 when her mum was diagnosed.

In 2014, she obtained certificates in aged care, disability care and community care, but had to focus on caring for her mother at home due to her deteriorating condition.

In Australia, about 20 per cent of people with Parkinson’s are of working age, with many diagnosed in their 30s and 40s.

It is a progressive neurological condition of which there is no known cause.

“Watching my mum suffer from this condition and seeing the lack of nursing staff specifically trained in Parkinson’s disease and dementia is what inspired me to study nursing,” Jodi says.

“I witnessed a nurse say to my mum, ‘I saw you eat your breakfast yesterday, don’t pretend you can’t do it now,’ but things can change from day to day for those with Parkinson’s.”

Jodi completed her Diploma of Nursing through TAFE Queensland and is now studying a Bachelor of Nursing at the University of Canberra (UC).

“One of the first things I did when I arrived in Canberra was to join Parkinson’s ACT and register as a volunteer,” Jodi says.

Parkinson’s ACT (now partnered with the Hospital Research Foundation Group) is a non-profit organisation providing information, support and education for people living with Parkinson’s.

The organisation also funds scholarships for students and research.

Jodi is the recipient of this year’s Alan Richardson Award, named in honour of Canberra public servant Alan Richardson who passed away in June 2017 aged 73, after a long battle with Parkinson’s Disease.

Annette Richardson and Jodi Rawlinson

Annette Richardson, wife of the late Alan Richardson speaking with award recipient Jodi Rawlinson. Photo: Tyler Cherry.

“There were many parallels between the lives of Mr Richardson and my mum, and receiving the award feels very personal,” says Jodi.

Jodi is studying nursing to arm herself with clinical knowledge to educate other nurses about how to care for those with conditions such as Parkinson’s and other neurological diseases.

Her passion for improving healthcare settings extends to patient rights, with a plan to pick up some law-related units at UC.

“When mum was sick and ended up in hospital, she had no idea what her rights were,” Jodi says.

“People would assume because she had Parkinson’s, she had dementia as well, and therefore didn’t know what she was talking about – that was not the case.”

As an Arrernte, Warlpiri and Torres Strait Islander woman, Jodi is also passionate about advocating for Indigenous health and rural health.

“I want to make sure anyone in a hospital setting knows what their rights are and what’s available – and if it’s not available, then how to get it.”


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