Maria's Story

The heart of family life is often the kitchen. It’s a place where love is manifested as meals which not only sustain, but also spice up life and cook up memories. This is the way it was in Maria’s kitchen.

Born in Cyprus, Maria emigrated to Australia with her Greek parents and two sisters in 1981 after the Turkish war. Her life was full and active, surrounded by family and two children, both of whom are now adults. When she suddenly became weak and depressed in 2015, doctors were baffled but eventually diagnosed Maria with Neuromyelitis Optica, a degenerative disease similar to MS. The condition affects the spinal cord, optic nerve and immunity, causing paralysis and blindness.

Unable to look after herself and not willing to burden her children, Maria had no other option than to move to a nursing home. However, the move did not suit Maria as she was unable to make any choices for herself and was forced into a very limiting schedule. Being immunosuppressed and living with other people meant Maria was often falling seriously ill. Still in her 50s, she was decades younger than her roommates, and her only happiness was when family would visit and take her for an outing. “I was very depressed and unhappy. I had a lot of stress in the nursing home.”

Maria’s daughter Christina was aware of her distress. As a new mother herself, Christina could only visit for short intervals as the nursing home wasn’t a safe or sanitary place for her young son. When Christina heard from a colleague about new independent living apartments being built for people with high physical support needs, she investigated to see if her mother was eligible. In July 2019, Maria moved out of the nursing home into her own brand new, fully accessible, 2 bedroom apartment built by Ability SDA. “Mum’s transition to the apartment has been amazing. My brother and I have noticed we’ve got our old mum back,” Christina said.

“Mum’s on her own schedule here, she can direct staff and tell them when she wants to eat, have a shower, get into bed or out of bed. It’s clean and safe, family can visit anytime and even stay over. It’s been fantastic in terms of her choice, freedom and health.” For Maria, there are many things to love about her new home, “I love the windows and doors, they’re very wide and open and let in a lot of light. I’m also very happy with the staff here.” Christina nods in agreement, “Mum’s care team are fantastic. They chat with her while they’re working which makes her day. She has socialisation living in her own apartment.”

Having the ability to make her own decisions has given Maria a new lease of life. “I am very happy here and relaxed. I have choice. I can go to bed anytime I want and wake up anytime I want. I love to cook and can prepare my own dinner, slowly. Everything is easy and good.”

Would Christina recommend other families doing the same? “Yes! For anyone thinking of applying for SDA – do it, be brave! Get a good support team around you, find a good support coordinator. It’s been such a life-changing experience not only for mum, but for all her family and her whole support network.”