How the Life Without Barriers COVID-19 Response Unit helped keep people connected.
The long and repeated restrictions, disruptions to daily lives, isolation from friends and family, and having staff in masks or full protective gear in homes, all took mental tolls on many people we support. So, just as important as preventing the spread of infection, we supported people’s mental well-being.
To keep morale up at a Supported Independent Living (SIL) home in Victoria, each resident thought about what they wanted to do with their time and were supported to explore their interests.
Michaela* kept active with YouTube exercises, Colin* did arts and crafts, Allen* learnt to cook, and Nick* developed his green thumb by redesigning the garden. Dash* wanted a new look, so he and his support workers researched hairstyles and had a practice run with some home dye.
The housemates kept in touch with loved ones through video calls and phone calls – some even saw more of their families than they usually would.
Everyone had weekly one-on-one time with their favourite support worker to do whatever they wanted (within the rules of the restrictions). Some chose walks in local parks, some liked hot chocolate ‘dates’, and the most popular activity was driving through McDonald's for a cheeky fast-food treat.
The housemates took more responsibility for their homes. Through the lockdowns, they cleaned the house, planned meals, and baked and cooked them.
For Dash, being trusted with more responsibility, having personal time with his favourite support workers, and the opportunity to learn about himself and his flatmates brought the chance to grow.
“I was like a kid before, but I am a changed person. I grew up and became more of an adult. I have more responsibility. My behaviour is different - I don’t bang doors and scream anymore. It’s not nice to bang doors. I can’t change how other people behave, but I can change how I do,” said Dash.
When asked about what his favourite thing was during the restrictions, Dash said, “I liked to have time with Kate and have hot chocolates together. It felt more like being an adult.”
Dash knows what he wants: red hair and less days at his day program, so he has more time to do other things he likes. Now he goes to his day program three days a week instead of five. And to celebrate his new self, Dash dyed his hair bright red at a local salon as soon as restrictions were lifted.
A person's story is precious. We take storytelling seriously. Sometimes people are able to tell their own story, and we love that. We always make sure they give us their ok, and we will always honour the trust placed in us to bring their story forward.
*Names have been changed to protect the individuals in this story.
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