11 April 2024

Patti's family and support staff find the motivation she needs to continue to live at home.

Image: Patti at a Life Without Barriers Christmas party. She is wearing a pretty purple dress and patting a dog that someone is holding up for her.

Patti is from a time when there was a very different approach to supporting people with disability. She lived in a Residential Institution for many years and only moved to a home with Supported Independent Living (SIL) support in 2015.

Now, Patti can choose where, when and whether she goes out. She decides what she wants to do and how long she will do it for.

“Patti likes to direct her own support. She definitely knows what she wants or does not want,” said Cathy Smith, Team Leader.

Image: Patti dressed up a a Christmas party with her support staff.

In the 1950s, Patti had surgery on her vocal cords, which affected her ability to talk. Now, she uses gestures and points to communicate what she wants and needs.

“Patti doesn’t use many words to communicate, but we know exactly what she means." Cathy continued.

"Patti responds mostly with a nod of her head for yes and a shake for no. If she feels strongly about something she does not want to do, she will turn away or tell us ‘no.'"

Image: Patti is wearing a green dress and is sitting on a chair with a walker in front of her.

To get around, Patti used a combination of her two-wheel walker, grabbing rails, and moving around on her knees when it suited her. Unfortunately, the skin around Patti’s knees became thinner with age (she is now in her mid-80s), and her using them to get around caused abrasions over time. Despite the care and medical treatment at home, Patti developed a skin infection and had to be taken to a hospital.

In the hospital, away from her home, Patti’s health declined. She was unable to perform any of her usual tasks independently and she didn’t want to eat or get out of bed.

Patti's brother and family love her dearly and are very much a part of her life. When her brother was out of town when she was in the hospital, her niece Sally took turns with her Life Without Barriers support staff in visiting Patti every day. Sally and the Life Without Barriers team made sure that Patti was well cared for, advocated for her needs in the hospital, and kept Patti’s morale up.

Feeling homesick, Patti would cry with frustration at not being able to go home and she constantly pointed to the door and said “home”.

The hospital staff made the decision that Patti should move from her home to an aged care facility and started preparing to discharge her. Patti’s support team and her family were deeply concerned with this decision. They knew how much her home meant to Patti, they did not want her moved to an unfamiliar place, and they did not want the risk that Patti may never return to her beloved home.

For Patti to be deemed well enough to return home instead of an aged care facility, she had to be able to move independently. Her support team tried for days to get Patti to make a bed-to-chair transfer on her own, but she couldn't.

On the day of the discharge, Sally and Cathy encouraged Patti one last time with a little sweet motivation.

“In a last-ditch effort, we promised Patti that if she could get into the chair on her own, we would buy her ice cream. Then - like magic, she made the move!" said Cathy.

Image: Patti is enjoying her ice cream in the hospital after making the bed-to-chair transfer. She is wearing a grey hooded jumper.

"We were able to take Patti home that day. Everyone was so overjoyed. No nursing home for our queen.”

Patti was happy to be home but still had a long recovery journey ahead. Her support team worked closely with Allied Health Services and other Life Without Barriers team members to help her recover.

When she first returned from the hospital, Patti struggled to turn herself in bed. But through determination and support, Patti gained more strength and mobility and soon was able to do things for herself again.

Patti's Life Without Barriers support team and her family worked together to source a new lightweight wheelchair, which allows Patti to move around the house more easily. Patti now uses her feet and hands to get around, keeping her knees protected.

Patti is now back to enjoying the finer things in life, Sunday sippers and cake, directing her own support, and living her best life.

Her support team organised a party for Patti and her whole family came together to celebrate Patti’s return to good health and to her home.

Image: Patti with her family. A big group of adults and children surround her in a room.

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