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East County Wednesday, Sep. 9, 2020 1 year ago

Love of the job leads to award for Lakewood Ranch nurse

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Lakewood Ranch resident named 2020 'Caregiver of the Year.'
by: Liz Ramos Staff Writer
Angie Kowalski-Lee, a licensed practical nurse at Windsor Reflections at Lakewood Ranch, shows off her plaque for being Florida Senior Living Association’s 2020 Caregiver of the Year. Courtesy photo.

Lakewood Ranch’s Angie Kowalski-Lee, a licensed practical nurse, enjoys listening to the life stories of her patients at Windsor Reflections at Lakewood Ranch.

It doesn’t matter she’s heard the stories before or even that the patients do not remember her from one day to the next. That’s just part of caring for patients with memory loss.

Kowalksi-Lee, 19, goes along with it, listening intently every time. 

“It’s fascinating to see how they feel like they’re meeting a new person every day even when you are the one who helps them every day,” Kowalski-Lee said.

Kowalski-Lee’s dedication to her patients and love for her job are some of the reasons why the staff at Windsor Reflections, a memory-care facility, nominated her for Florida Senior Living Association’s 2020 Caregiver of the Year.

Caregiver of the Year is annual award that recognizes an outstanding senior living caregiver of a Florida Senior Living Association member community.

“It’s an accomplishment being so young and being so responsible and focused,” said Eva Mills, the health care director at Windsor Reflections. “Angie is just a role model for a lot of the staff here. She’s responsible, caring, empathetic — everything that a nurse   should be, I see in Angie.”

Kowalski-Lee said she was surprised to be named Caregiver of the Year, especially because she’s only 19 and just starting her nursing career. 

She became a licensed practical nurse a year ago after finishing classes at Suncoast Technical College in Sarasota.

“It means I’ve been doing my job correctly, I guess,” she said with a laugh.

There’s never a day when Kowalski-Lee doesn’t want to step into work and interact with her patients because something interesting always happens.

“It’s quite funny when they are mad or moody for a moment, and if you come back in 30 minutes, they can be displaying a complete opposite personality,” Kowalski-Lee said.

She spends her days making sure patients have everything they need, calling doctors for medications, doing activities with patients and making sure everyone is comfortable and safe.

Her favorite activities to do with patients are artwork and puzzles.

“They always ask me how their drawing looks after they’re done,” Kowalski-Lee said. “With puzzles, you would be surprised how good some of the residents are at completing the puzzles even with their dementia.”

Kowalski-Lee wanted to be a nurse because she enjoys helping people and likes learning about anatomy. She said she enjoys the interaction with people, especially the elderly.

Angie Kowalski-Lee, a licensed practical nurse at Windsor at Lakewood Ranch, helps feed Eliot Charnas. Kowalski-Lee loves interacting with her patients and coworkers. Courtesy photo.

“It’s a rewarding job because you get to see their smile sometimes,” she said.

Mills said she is proud to have Kowalski-Lee on her team at Windsor Reflections.

“She talks to the residents and interacts with them,” Mills said. “She’s interested in their life stories. She takes her time to do activities with the residents. She’s invested in the whole process.”

Kowalski-Lee is taking online classes with the State College of Florida to become a registered nurse within the next two years. Although she hasn’t chosen what type of nurse she’d like to be, she’s narrowed it down to memory care or dermatology, she said.

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