This morning we were fortunate enough to be joined by two of The Summer Foundation’s Ambassadors; Kate Skene and Grayden Moore.
The Summer Foundation is a Melbourne based organisation committed to providing young people with disability and complex care needs with a range of creative and innovative housing solutions so that they have a real choice in where they live.
Kate and Grayden came into the Aspect office to tell the team a little more about the work that The Summer Foundation do and share with us their own stories.
Kate was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) while in her second year of university. After graduating from university, Kate started working at a Kindergarten and was living independently. Unfortunately, at the age of 30, Kate’s health worsened to the point where she was admitted to hospital for three and a half months.
When Kate was discharged from hospital, it was not realistic for her to return to live independently. The only option available was a nursing home.
Kate described her first day in the nursing home. Being dropped off by her parents and doing her best to be brave as the front door of the nursing locked behind her parents as they left.
Kate shared a room with an elderly woman who had severe dementia. She cried herself to sleep that night, as she did for many after that.
At 31 years old, Kate was the youngest resident in the nursing home. The next youngest resident was 60 years old, while all other residents were in their 80’s.
Kate began to lead an increasingly isolated life. Struggling to find anything in common with much older residents, she found it hard to socialise at the nursing home. Her friends found visiting Kate so confronting that they stopped all together. Kate would be asked to vacate her room at 8am, would be “allowed” to shower every second day and wash her hair once a week. Bed time was 6:30pm. Kate admitted that she lost the will to live and regularly considered how she could “do something stupid and make it look like an accident”.
Kate was lucky enough to have her social worker place her name on a waiting list for alternative and more suitable accommodation, which she was accepted into.
Kate now lives in accommodation in inner Melbourne, where she has her own room and the support she needs to be independent. Kate is again living a lifestyle appropriate to her age, and managing her own day. She is “never home, spending most of my days having coffees and going shopping with friends.”
Grayden was one of Australia’s top 10 junior tennis players in Australia, and mixed doubles partner to Samantha Stosur. At 23 years old, a horrific skateboarding accident changed Grayden’s life for ever.
Grayden’s parents, who were overseas at the time, were contacted by the hospital and told to return home immediately to say goodbye to their son who lay unconscious in intensive care. Doctors advised, should Grayden survive, he would “remain a vegetable for life and never be able to talk or walk”.
For a time, Grayden’s grasp on life was tenuous though, with support, has made amazing progress. It took years for Grayden to relearn basic functions such as sitting by himself and walking again.
After being released from hospital, Grayden was placed in a nursing home. Unfortunately, Grayden could not comment on his experience at a nursing home as his injury has virtually erased his memory of the 6 years prior to his accident, and the first two years of his recovery.
What Grayden was able and proud to talk about his life today. Grayden has moved into a supported accommodation unit, surrounded by other young people (and close to the beach!).
Grayden loves managing his own diary (which he does on a large whiteboard in his living room). Grayden is also a regular at his local tennis club, where he regularly visits for a social doubles match. When asked if he keeps in touch with Sam Stosur, Grayden confesses to still “texting her some tips after watching her play on TV”.
Kate and Grayden’s stories were incredibly moving. At 29 years old myself, their stories were particularly harrowing.
While my immediate emotion was sorrow for them, they made it very clear that they don’t want sympathy, what they want is equality. They are young, fun, people who want to live a young, fun life. And now they can.
Their resilience to misfortune and overriding positivity about life is truly inspirational. Both Kate and Graydn’s faces lit up when they were given the opportunity to tell us about their lives today. The gratitude for what they have now is extremely moving. Thank you to Kate and Grayden for sharing their incredible stories with such openness and honesty.
Aspect is proud to be supporting the Summer Foundation in 2015 by donating 100% of the revenue generated by this year’s PACE Survey to the organisation to assist them in their mission to stop the 6000+ young Australians, like Kate and Grayden, from being forced to live in nursing homes because there is nowhere else for them.
To find out more about The Pace Survey, and to take part, visit www.pacesurvey.com.au.