Choice and control changed Brian’s life
BEING able to experience life in all its fullness is how Bundaberg resident Brian describes his year with an NDIS plan and budget.
The car enthusiast has, in the past few months, been to drag racing, monster trucks and agricultural machinery events with his support worker David. Outings that previously weren't financially possible.
"I've always loved cars but being blind, well you don't know what cars look like," Brian explained.
"Being able to go to so many events and feel, touch, hear and smell the cars, I have these very detailed pictures in my head. I love Mustangs, Chevys and Monaros. They have a special sound.
"At the Agrotrend Agricultural Show tractor shows I felt the width and height of the tyres."
A team from Blue Care Bundaberg have walked beside Brian on his NDIS journey.
A support worker for the past 16 years, 11 of those with Blue Care, David noted last year as the most rewarding of his career.
"We talk about breaking down barriers in disability and for us, ours was geographical," he said.
"Before the NDIS, Brian and I were limited to Bundaberg."
Brian's NDIS funding package includes support for community access and assistive technology.
Specialised technology, including a talking microwave, has meant more independence for Brian in his own kitchen.
Socially, overnight trips, drag races at Benaraby and Gladstone, the Childers Festival, Maryborough Sanctuary and days at the beach have all been made possible through the supports provided by Blue Care and funded by the NDIS.
When asked how life-changing this has been for Brian he replied: "I am a 52-year-old Aussie who has only just got to feed his first kangaroo."
I'm able to make the choices if I want to go away over the weekend, what hours I want support for and my outings. Looking back I guess for me that freedom of speech was missing.
BRIAN, RECEIVER OF BLUE CARE SUPPORT SERVICES
David said the NDIS had offered true choice and control.
"There's more flexibility in where we can go and when. No longer is Brian restricted by a service and what is offered on what days and at what times," he said.
"Brian has asked for consistency in his support workers and flexibility in his outings and I can see the whole team doing everything they can in rostering, in scheduling, to do what Brian wants.
"We all are proud to be part of this transformation our service is going through and the difference it is making in people's lives. It is exhilarating."
Brian said his weeks are now full.
"I'm able to make the choices if I want to go away over the weekend, what hours I want support for and my outings.
"Looking back I guess for me that freedom of speech was missing."
"While people and services in Australia may have meant well, they haven't before now really been able to put people with disabilities' needs first.
"Sand beneath my toes, a kangaroo nuzzling food from my hand and the roar of a Chevy. This is life in all its fullness. I have a normal life now and it is amazing."
Blue Care is a registered NDIS provider and can provide a wide range of services and supports in the Fraser Coast region to help people with disability live life their way.
Meet diversional therapist, Rhonda
IT TAKES a special person to be a diversional therapist.
A day in their working life requires infinite patience, creativity, compassion and energy. And diversional therapists make it their business to ensure residents continue to live a real life, filled with joy.
One definition of the role reads: "Diversional therapy is a client-centred practice and recognises that leisure and recreational experiences are the right of all individuals. Diversional therapy practitioners work with people of all ages and abilities to design and facilitate leisure and recreation programs. Activities are designed to support, challenge and enhance the psychological, spiritual, social, emotional and physical wellbeing of individuals."
The description doesn't do justice in portraying the type of work Rhonda Neilson and those like her do.
As a diversional therapist (or DT) at Blue Care's Millbank aged care home in Bundaberg, Rhonda is responsible for organising activities and outings for residents. But the way she describes it, she's "just got to be there for them".
She is a Blue Care fixture, having started at Millbank as a 17-year-old fresh out of school.
"I started out doing house-keeping," said Rhonda, who turns 59 this year.
"Then I was a kitchen hand, helping the cook."
After a break to have a baby, she was lured back to work in the laundry, and never left. Rhonda began helping out the centre's other DTs and then trained to become one, and for the past seven years has worked tirelessly to bring joy to residents.
"I just love it. I love the interaction," she said.
Blue Care knows that everybody is different and different things will ignite their interest. Excursions, concerts, games, visits to restaurants, spiritual care, exercise and crafts are all part of the mix, and the DTs work tirelessly to make life interesting and fulfilling.
Some residents receiving palliative care also choose Millbank instead of being in hospital, and the DTs offer support to them and their families. But as Rhonda explained, their most important role is to listen.
"It's just to be there for them, to sit and chat and have that one-on-one," she said. "It's important for them to know that there is always someone here for them.
"Every day is different. Every day is a challenge."