Faced with a multiple sclerosis (MS) diagnosis in December 1986, Alan began seeking support for the progressive disease. Now aged 71 years old, verging on quadriplegia and fighting a fierce cancer battle, in-home support has awarded him and his family peace of mind.
Whilst it was a big shock to the family, Alan wished to keep his diagnosis private and began his new job.
“Alan was devastated… he wondered what he had done, especially with his new job, new country and all the other issues,” Annette says.
Seeking support from the MS Society and weekly attending physiotherapy groups, Alan’s employer also showed their support by setting up supportive equipment and allowing him to work from the comfort of his home as the condition progressed and his diagnosis was revealed.
The couple bought their own accessible vehicle to accommodate Alan’s wheelchair and although difficult to fund themselves, Alan says it was one of the best decisions he and Annette ever made.
“It was life-changing at the time.”
When his abilities began to affect his work, Alan scaled back over time and decided to retire at 69 years old but it wasn’t until Annette, his full-time carer, required a knee replacement 13 years ago, that it was time to begin looking into support options.
Initially, the MS Society helped Alan access in home care while Annette was in hospital and recovering from her operations, until the couple realised they could get a Government funded Home Care Package to help Alan receive the support he needed while remaining in his home.
With months of visits to his home to assess his needs and complete paperwork, Alan was approved for a level four Home Care Package.
“It was such a relief to us,” he says.
“The journey is not a simple one, but after all the work we did with everyone involved. The rewards far outweigh the effort and time you put in and the time you have to wait for a result.”
To help make their lives easier, Alan’s home required some modifications and equipment, including adjustments to make the bathroom wheelchair accessible and a ceiling hoist for the bedroom, all funded under the Home Care Package.
Alan says his well-informed and knowledgeable Client Adviser, Sharon, helped ensure the modifications were done to the highest standard and the package would meet his needs.
“Working as a team really helps... you are only a phone call away if you need something in an emergency and it can be put in place straight away," says Alan.
“Sharon from Care Connect practices and believes in her saying - ‘Clients Are Really Everything’ from the acronym CARE. She really does care and has set a new benchmark for us!”
Through his Home Care Package, Alan also receives garden and home maintenance assistance, including mowing of lawns, gutter cleaning and other odd jobs, as well as physiotherapy, body movement and occupational therapy when required.
He tells how Sharon organised a timely replacement of their 27-year-old air conditioner when it broke down recently.
“With my MS, unregulated heat and cold temperatures cause fatigue in hot weather and nerve pain during colder periods.
“For me it was all seamless with the minimal amount of stress which I was most appreciative of.”
However, in home support has not only benefited Alan, but Annette is also thrilled she is supported as his carer and the couple can continue to enjoy life together doing the things they like, such as going to the cinema, attending the theatre and concerts.
“At first, she said when will the bubble burst, but it is still going,” he explains.
“It has made a huge difference to her and the worry of everything has been lifted... To ease the worry about things is a huge relief and cannot be understated.”
Alan says forward thinking is important when it comes to predicting your future support needs, as the approval process can often involve waiting.
“Remember it can be a slow process to reach the end, but you have to understand it is the way the system works and you have to go with the flow, even though it can be frustrating and you think it will never happen, it will eventually.
“We have had some fantastic people help us… The care and understanding from everyone has been great."
Alan says obtaining a Home Care Package has been a life-changing experience.
“These people care, they are here to help you and help you stay safely and comfortably in your home for as long as it is possible.
“Try to think positively, look ahead to your needs and plan before it's too late.
“Don't give up, it will happen.”
How would a Home Care Package improve your life and independence at home? Tell us in the comments below.