Written by Mary Rekaris, Housing and Support Transition Coordinator at Annecto
There aren’t two people like Helen. Her unique and vibrant personality means she never goes unnoticed, she knows what she wants and won’t stop until she gets it – and that’s without mentioning her coloured hair and bright thrifted clothes! Helen, along with her family, had been living in St Kilda for most of her life, surrounded by everything that she loves: arts, multiculturalism, shops and restaurants.
When Helen had a stroke in 2014, affecting her health and mobility, her home and family weren’t equipped to provide her with the support she needed. She moved into an aged care facility.
Six years passed, COVID-19 hit Australia, and Helen’s life suffered unexpected changes once more. As the virus spread in her facility, she fell ill and had to spend the next three months in hospital. In the meantime, the aged care facility shut down and most of Helen’s belongings were lost. It was a very difficult and lonely time for Helen, as no one was allowed to visit her.
Once she recovered from COVID, Helen moved to medium-term accommodation whilst waiting for her preferred Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) to be completed. Specialist Disability Accommodations, or SDA, are purpose-built apartments for people with complex needs or disabilities. This is when, in late 2020, Helen reached out to Annecto.
The original plan was to have Helen move into the SDA before Christmas of 2020. But COVID delayed the whole process once more and Helen had to stay in her medium-term accommodation longer than planned.
A few months and countless emails, phone calls and team meetings later, the NDIA finally approved the plan for Helen to move into her chosen SDA. But we would have to work quickly because the medium-term accommodation allocated funds were running out. Moving houses is tricky at the best of times and requires a lot of planning and organisation, but for Helen, we had less than a month to arrange the move.
Not losing any more time, we organised the setup and maintenance of the apartment, and arranged training for the Allied Health support and our Annecto staff to suit Helen’s needs and requirements. And finally, on 5 March 2021, Helen was able to move into her new home in the heart of Moonee Ponds.
A year later, Helen is thriving in her independent living apartment. She has everything she needs nearby: op shops, art galleries and beauty salons, and is having her fill of social interaction and community participation. Helen’s health has improved considerably, she went from requiring 24/7 support, to relying only on occasional overnight support.
Six months ago, Helen also started a physio and exercise program, which has since helped increase her feeling and movement in her right leg, hand and fingers.
Helen is also looking forward to her upcoming trip to Phillip Island that she and her Community Access Team have been planning for a while.
By focusing on what Helen wanted to achieve, rather than outside expectations of what was possible for her, we’ve been able to support Helen to live a better life. We can see the difference in the way Helen communicates and in moments of happiness and community that she enjoys with her increased independence.