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Thursday, 25 June 2015

The struggle of young people with disabilities to stay out of nursing homes

Many young people end up in nursing homes because it is a matter of "where else can they go?" Samantha Kennerley, of Youngcare, says.

Many young people end up in nursing homes because it is a matter of "where else can they go?" Samantha Kennerley, of Youngcare, says. 

For many people, finding a new home is a lengthy, costly and exhausting process, but for people living with a disability the search is even more challenging.

Someone who knows the struggle of finding suitable housing is Virginia Samuela.

Eight years ago at age 34 "V", as she prefers to be known, suffered two strokes in just three days, leaving her confined to a wheelchair.

V and her husband Darrin in front of their new home in Macquarie Fields.

V and her husband Darrin in front of their new home in Macquarie Fields. 

V spent a year in hospital, fighting against the hospital's attempts to move her into a nursing home.

"Nursing homes are places where people go to die, not to live," V said.

Having successfully fought to stay out of aged care, V was then granted the Supported Living Fund, an individualised accommodation package for people with a disability, by the NSW government.

With her funding secured, the next step was finding a home.

"Somebody pretty much had to die for me to get a house"

The Department of Housing had grim hopes of V finding a home that suited her needs.
"What they told me right at the beginning ... was that somebody pretty much had to die for me to get a house, there was such a shortage of housing," she said.

In the end, it took seven long years for an appropriate house to become available.
"The truth of the matter is, I've come to find out, that someone did pass away in this house and that is how I got [it]."

Young people in aged care

V's struggle to find a home is not unique, with many young people forced into poor living situations, like a nursing home, due to a lack of adequate accommodation.

On Wednesday a Senate inquiry looking into the adequacy of existing residential care for people with a disability handed down its recommendations.

Liberal Senator Linda Reynolds, who secured support for the inquiry in December last year, said that there was a need for "a dignified and implementable pathway forward" in a bid to support the accommodation needs of younger Australians with disabilities.

There is no proper reporting around the number of young people in aged care - one of the recommendations of the committee is to introduce a national database - but the report estimated there are currently more than 7100 people under the the age of 65 living in nursing homes.

Youngcare's Samantha Kennerley says there are a range of reasons why people with a disability are placed into aged care, but generally it is due to the shortage of accommodation options.

"They don't need to be in hospitals, so it is a matter of where else can they go? That is often where aged care comes into play because there is no where else," Kennerley said.

Dr Di Winkler, of the Summer Foundation, an organisation that aims to keep young people out of nursing homes, says there needs to be a move away from developing segregated housing for people with a disability.

To do that Winkler says there needs to be more accessible and affordable housing developed, with one idea to make a percentage of new developments built specifically for people with disabilities.
"We need to start now, this is something we should have acted on two years ago. While we wait, more young people will go into nursing homes" Winkler said.

V is unable to reach the taps or access the kitchen cupboards in her new home. Photographer: Fred Kroh.

"I can't cook in the kitchen"

V moved into her new home with her husband Darrin, in February, the first time they were finally able to live together since being married.

While V is greatful to have been given the opperunity to move out of supported acoomodation and live with her husband, her new home is less than ideal.

The home has been modified to include an entry ramp, a hobless shower and shower rail, but there are still many simple tasks V cannot do on her own.

She can't reach the taps, nor the cupboards in the kitchen. Her bedroom door isn't wide enough for her chair and the cramped space makes it hard for V to manoeuvre around.

"Whilst it is modified for a person with a disability to actually get in and out of the house, it is not purpose-built for somebody with a disability," V said.

"It doesn't really promote my independence when I can't cook in the kitchen or I can't reach the taps."

V's home is in Macquarie Fields, about 14 kilometres from Campbelltown in New South Wales, but it is too far to from her local shops for her to travel safely on her own.

"I am feeling very isolated because I am not able to be part of the community."

"My next move will probably be back into a nursing home"

Moving again isn't really an option for V.

"It took years to get me to this point I can't even imagine how much longer it would take, if I ever decided to move.

"I don't even feel like I have the right to move.

"I am 42 now, I am thinking my next move will probably be back into a nursing home."

Source: Domain , 25th June 2015

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