New deal, new direction

SH-655Meeting the unique needs of the individual is the guiding principle behind DisabilityCare.

“It’s going to make an incredible difference to the lives of a whole lot of people.”

Developmental disability nurse Gary Dunne believes DisabilityCare will improve the lives of many Australians who often miss out on the services they need.

“Once it rolls out it’s going to make an incredible difference to the lives of a whole lot of people,” said Gary, who nurses at ADHC’s Summer Hill centre in Sydney.

“Disability care is going in the direction of individual packages and people deciding for themselves what care to access, and how.

“It’s an exciting time to be in disability nursing. I think in 10 years time we will look back and say, ‘that was a huge change’.”

Gary suspects the scheme will not have a big impact on most Summer Hill clients because many are chronically disabled with life-threatening illnesses.

“The choices for most of our clients are a lot more limited and the amount of daily care they need restricts what they can do.

“But even our clients now have more opportunity to access the activities they are interested in than they used to.”

Gary says it is hard to predict how the introduction of DisabilityCare will affect disability nursing.

“No one really knows how it’s going to impact the work we do or the career path for disability nurses.

“There will be a growing number of people with disabilities and complex health issues and a significant number will need specialist nurses to assist them to continue to function at their best and lead quality lives.”

One of Gary’s clients, 19-year-old Ken Adderley, was born with severe physical and intellectual disabilities and has chronic medical problems.

Ken’s mother Melinda welcomes the introduction of DisabilityCare because it has put disabilities on the public and political agenda.

“I don’t know how DisabilityCare will work or how it will impact on Ken, but it’s fantastic that people are now talking about disability services,” Melinda said.

“I think we have become less community-minded and DisabilityCare gets us back to thinking about other people in a broader context than our own families.”

She said she would not want to see any change to the “exceptional” level of nursing care Ken receives at Summer Hill.

“The Summer Hill nurses have done an absolutely amazing job of meeting Ken’s needs and he has a community program built around his interests, such as music and football.

“He gets the highest level of funds available and we already self manage his money and make decisions about what he will be doing.”

Melinda said DisabilityCare might improve access to some subsidised services such as wheelchairs.

“Under the current system, if Ken needs a new wheelchair he has to apply somewhere else for the funding. That agency has to make a decision about what sort of chair Ken needs and is entitled to.

“As a result he stayed in a wheelchair that didn’t suit him for a long time because he didn’t quite fall into the category of desperately needing a new chair.

“Hopefully DisabilityCare will give us more flexibility and choice in accessing these sorts of services.”