Julie makes my house a home. I never want to be away from her. Some of the hardest times in my life have been the 7 months I spent in hospital being told that I couldn’t go back home and might have to live without her.
My name is Kevin and I’m 65 years old. I suffered a haemorrhagic stroke just two years ago and my wife, Julie, was told that I had a less than 1% chance of survival.
I spent about seven months in hospital after my stroke and during that time, the hospital OT went to our home to assess whether or not I’d be able to return after my rehabilitation. His assessment was that the home was unsuitable for my needs and that I’d have to leave it. That’s all he said though, no other options were given and I found that incredibly distressing.
The hospital also put a lot of pressure on me to move out which was overwhelming. They don’t really want you there but there’s nowhere else to go! It’s very difficult to survive such a major stroke and then be told that you can never go home again either. Most people I spoke to on the stroke ward had no idea that specialist disability accommodation even existed.
Julie and I have been married for 40 years. We simply couldn’t imagine a life living apart from each other after being so happy for so long. I found it so distressing that many of the hospital staff kept suggesting that I would end up in a nursing home and that we’d have to live apart. That was a nightmare – I just couldn’t bear living without her.
Luckily the social worker at the rehabilitation hospital helped us register with the NDIS. The NDIS Application process was long and drawn out. My COS, Lisa, went above and beyond to help us though the NDIS application process and also showed us the Ability SDA website. With the right NDIS funding in place, we were able to apply for an Ability Apartment and received a letter from the team there quite quickly.
I wasn’t even allowed out of hospital to go and view the apartment initially but when Julie and my daughter arrived with the photos and videos from their inspection, I loved it! It was a complete turnaround from what I’d been feeling previously; the worry and stress of thinking I’d have to live in hospital long-term, turned to hope that I’d possibly be able to move into a really lovely new home suited perfectly to my needs.
And the best bit? Julie could move with me!
Our son and daughter helped us with the move and Julie made a huge effort to have everything set up for me before I was transferred from the hospital. All the furniture had been delivered and it felt like home the moment I came through the doors. The Ability Apartments are even pet-friendly which was really important to us. We brought so many of our favourite things from home, including the pot plants and our two aging cats!
The team at Ability SDA made everything so easy for us and provided a really helpful information pack when we moved in. It had all the details about the building and how things worked and what services were available in the local area. They were available to answer any questions throughout the transition period and were such a huge help to us.
If I’m honest, I was completely in awe for at least a week after moving in. It was so quiet and peaceful after being in a noisy hospital setting for so long. I felt a bit institutionalised and had to settle back in to living my life the way I wanted to. I loved the space and the ability to move wherever I wanted to whenever I wanted to. Everything in this apartment is accessible to me and while Julie and I do everything together, it’s a very liberating feeling to know that I can do whatever I need to by myself.
The apartment itself is bright and airy. I don’t feel closed in. It’s modern, light-filled and just generally fan-bloody-tastic! We have lorikeets, kookaburras and a flock of sulphur-crested cockatoos that fly by twice a day. I love sitting out on the balcony, watering our plants and looking at the gorgeous trees around us.
Our kids and grandchildren visit us once a week and stay the night with us once a fortnight. They tear around the place like normal kids because there’s more than enough space. We love it – our family means everything to us.
There was a bit of a learning curve for us with the assistive technology but we’re really comfortable with it now and it makes life a lot easier. It’s lovely. We use Alexa on a regular basis. Our Grandson even worked out that if he tells Alexa he loves her, she’ll sing him a song. That was really entertaining at first but now he does it 10 times a day when he comes to visit… kids these days!
We really appreciate the security in the building and being able to see who’s at the front door without having to open it. Having a security card and pin number access makes us feel safe and secure. We’ve had our son up from Melbourne, Julie’s parents from North Sydney, my Doctor from Neuroscience rehabilitation and various service providers to the apartment to visit us. Everyone has been really impressed. I was even able to have my splints done here in the apartment rather than having to travel down to Sydney for fittings because there’s so much room to manoeuvre.
We have a lovely community of neighbours too and feel really settled socially. We go out for drinks and meals with some of the other tenants in the building. We have meetings on the shared rooftop terrace and have made so many new friends. We’re in a more relaxed and easy stage of our lives now. I can’t walk or drive a car anymore after my stroke but due to the fabulous supports and living in this building, I can still do everything I did before. Everything is easy to get to – we’re so central – and the hospital is really close by. That gives us a great sense of security given my health. Julie and I go out pretty much every day to hydrotherapy, the library, the club or simply out walking on waterfront. We’re even planning a beach day with a beach wheelchair for me when the weather warms up again!
My mental health has improved a lot – I have very few down days. Being here gives me the opportunity to focus more on what I can do that what I can’t. I’d encourage anyone needing specialist disability accommodation to apply. Just DO it! Do it as soon as you can. Don’t be put off by the lengthy application process through the NDIS. Whatever you do, don’t give up. This is an amazing opportunity and every person with a disability deserves to be as happy in a suitable home as I am now thanks to Ability SDA.