For Assured clients Lisa and Cheryl, two individuals who share a remarkably similar journey, the ability to live independently and maintain control over their lives appeared to be slipping away.
A chance meeting in hospital, however, opened up unexpected opportunities, giving both women a new lease on life.
In 2018, Lisa (then 41) was the full-time carer for her elderly mother when she found her energy and strength beginning to fail her.
“I thought I was just getting lazy,” she explains.
“So the doctors just recommended diet and exercise,” she says.
“But, when the weakness continued up my legs and into my arms, I knew it was more than that.”
Lisa’s condition deteriorated rapidly, resulting in complete numbness from her feet to her chin, requiring urgent hospitalisation.
The diagnosis was polyneuropathy, a disease which affects the body’s peripheral nerves, and Lisa ended up spending over a year in Flinders Medical Centre, stabilising her condition and working hard to regain feeling and mobility.
“It was really scary,” she says.
“I couldn’t swallow…and I’d lost all my fine motor skills.”
“Things like touching your ear, I couldn’t do it! It was like I’d forgotten!”
With her elderly mother and two beloved cats waiting for her, Lisa was determined to return home, focusing her [impressively] positive outlook on recovery.
Within a year, and with amazing perseverance, she had regained feeling and mobility in all but her lower legs and feet.
Then she was dealt another blow.
“I was told if I couldn’t walk, I wouldn’t be able to return home. And, the only option would be to move into a nursing home,” she says.
A prospect that was not at all appealing to the independent and outgoing Lisa.
Determined to maintain her independence and work towards walking again, Lisa moved into the Repatriation Hospital in Daw Park to continue her rehabilitation.
It was here she met Cheryl.
At the age of 62, Cheryl had the great misfortune to suffer a stroke, which left her with weakness down her right side and some neurological damage.
Like Lisa, Cheryl had to get used to life in a wheelchair and can relate to the newfound freedom experienced when she finally got a motorised chair.
“If there were no staff around to help push you, you’d just have to wait where they’d left you.” Lisa explains.
“It can get very boring and lonely, sometimes.” Cheryl agrees.
Something Lisa absolutely couldn’t stand.
“Once I got my motorised chair, I had freedom again! I went by myself to Marion Shopping Centre for the first time in years!” Lisa says.
“Some people feel uncomfortable without helpers, but not me! If there’s something I can’t reach, I’m happy to ask shop staff, and people are always happy to help.”
Following a few falls out of bed, however, it was determined Cheryl would be unable to live alone and, without family to support her, she was taken into hospital.
It was here that Lisa and Cheryl bonded over their shared circumstances.
“Once I had my motorised chair, she couldn’t escape me!” Lisa laughs.
“I’d always be coming up to her room saying, Hey Cheryl!”
Cheryl chuckles fondly at the memory.
A Path to Independence
Having no previous involvement with the NDIS, Lisa and Cheryl were both completely unaware of the supports and options available to them.
However, after being paired with passionate Support Coordinator Sian, of From Here2Home, several opportunities opened up for the duo, including the potential for Supported Independent Living (SIL).
With the help of Sian, Lisa and Cheryl together moved into one of Assured Home Care’s custom built, shared SIL accommodation units in Christies Downs.
“I can’t even begin to explain how life changing this chapter has been,” says Lisa.
“I didn’t even know this [SIL] was possible, I’d been told my only option was to go into a nursing home.”
“And, then I got to come here and met the nicest people on the planet,” she smiles.
“They [Assured staff] are always willing to help you achieve things. Anything you want to do they’ll help you do it.”
“That’s what’s really helped me. I’ve got goals, but it’s the people who come in every day to help you. Not just to support your personal needs, but also the advocacy, and just socialising are so important.”
“We have lovely laughs every morning, don’t we,” Lisa says to one of her Assured Support Workers, Amanda, who wholeheartedly agrees.
“I’m always inspired by these two,” she says.
“What I always notice is Cheryl’s sparkle and Lisa’s strength!”
Amanda is a very passionate advocate for SIL as it allows people living with disability to live how they choose.
“Cheryl is an early to bed, early to rise type!” laughs Amanda.
“She wakes up at beautiful early hours of the morning, I’m talking 3am! She likes to go out for a smoke and that’s her choice!”
“Once you need a wheelchair, sometimes these simple choices are virtually taken away,” says Cheryl.
“So to get these choices back, it’s worth more than money.”
Lisa agrees, saying “It’s very easy to see how some people lose hope.”
“You go from living a perfectly normal life, to being forgotten almost.”
“And being told you can’t go home, that’s the worst.”
But in her typical fashion, Lisa easily finds the silver lining.
“Coming here, though, really is like a happy ending.”