CAROL* has lived in the same one-bedroom unit in Kingston for 22 years.
With friends a short distance away and a Jack Russell terrier to keep her company, she has never considered moving.
But after a succession of minor falls outside her home, it became obvious to those closest to the 49-year-old that her living environment was no longer suitable for her increasing medical needs.
Carol, who is legally blind and hearing impaired, also suffers from poor balance which, when combined with her chronic medical conditions, makes it difficult for her to move around her home safely.
Last year, Carol was referred to Primary Health Tasmania’s care coordination program, which in her area is contracted to Community Based Support (CBS).
Care coordinators work with people with complex health needs, like Carol, and their care teams to assess clients’ care requirements then put them in touch with the services they need to stay healthy and independent.
They also support clients to take a proactive role in the ongoing management of their chronic conditions.
Carol’s care coordinator, Kate Faull, says Carol’s rocky and uneven backyard meant she couldn’t hang out her washing or simply sit outside without the risk of another fall.
“Carol was obviously very reluctant to move from somewhere that had been home for so long, so the most appropriate solution was to adapt her environment to meet her needs,” she says.
As a first step, Kate consulted a community-based occupational therapist from the Tasmanian Health Service plus a rehabilitation specialist from Guide Dogs Tasmania on the design elements.
Together, the occupational therapist and rehabilitation specialist assessed how the existing set-up affected Carol’s ability to perform day-to-day tasks and impacted on her personal safety. They made recommendations to Carol and the builder who would be doing the work.
Des Smith, lead pastor at Christian Reformed Church of Kingston, says the church agreed to fund all building materials and identify a labourer willing to volunteer time and skill towards the project.
“Carol is a long-time member of our church and a much-loved face in our community so when Kate approached us with her plans, we were more than happy to lend our assistance,” he says.
Builder Anthony Kuilenberg, who leads the church’s bible study group, says he was keen to tidy up Carol’s garden.
“With advice from Guide Dogs, we painted the back steps and footpaths leading in and around the garden with white line paint so Carol could easily distinguish the concrete from the grass,” he says.
“Changes were also made to external lighting.
“New turf was laid so there was nothing for Carol to trip over; we added in a lovely green garden hedge and we paved down the side of her house to create a smooth slope for walking, thanks to supplies donated by K&D Trade Kingston.
“Most importantly, we pulled out her old washing line and installed a new one that Carol can more easily reach – and there’s also a shelf built beside it for her to rest her washing basket on.
“The result is a garden that is much more inviting and user-friendly … the way her face lit up when we revealed the finish product made it even more worthwhile.”
Carol says she was overwhelmed with the transformation of her backyard, which took almost a year to complete.
“The garden looks lovely and I am so happy with it … I can see where I am going now.”
Kate says the project demonstrated what could be achieved through hard work, generosity and a collaborative community effort.
“We are very fortunate that everyone was willing to get on board and help make a difference for Carol,” she says.
“The new yard has increased Carol’s safety and independence – both of which are integral to her wellbeing.”
Lynette Purton, who manages Primary Health Tasmania’s care coordination program, says: “Carol’s story is a great example of what can happen when different parts of the system come together around a common goal of improving a person’s quality of life.”
More information about Primary Health Tasmania’s care coordination program is available atwww.primaryhealthtas.com.au/programs-and-services/coordinating-care or by calling 1300 653 169
* Carol is a real person and a client of the care coordination program, but has requested that her real name not be used in this story.
Article reproduced from issue 4 of Primary Health Tasmania’s Primary Health Matters magazine, with permission.