These days it’s rare for Liz*, 52, not to have a beaming smile on her face, but just three years ago the 2013 Eloura Employee of the Year was living in a Blue Mountains nursing home and holding little hope for the future.
Liz is one of five people who were allocated a place at Eloura Blue Mountains Disability Services through Young People In Residential Aged Care (YPIRAC), a five-year program jointly-funded by the federal and state governments that commenced in 2007 to provide more suitable accommodation and support to people under 65 who are living in aged care.
Another person will join the group next month.
Liz is thriving living with people her own age in the relative freedom of a Warrimoo house rented by Eloura and supported on a 24/7 shift basis by staff carers.
It’s showing in her job at Eloura’s factory in Lawson Road, Springwood where two of her housemates also work part-time.
“I was in my late 30s when I moved into a nursing home and I thought I’d go there for a short time but I was there for about 10 years,” Liz said.
“All I had in my room were a few basic things, you couldn’t do much and it was depressing being with much older people than me in the sense that they wouldn’t want to talk. I’d just sit there thinking ‘what am I doing here?’
“I’ve got my working life back now, my self-esteem is kicking on and I’m finally happy with the way my life is working out. I feel very lucky.”
Chris, 53, began a YPIRAC placement at Eloura almost two years ago after living in a nursing home for almost six years.
“The best part of living here is having choices and not being told what to do, but asked,” he said.
Eloura residential cluster manager Bernadette Andersen said Trish, who has multiple sclerosis, Donald and Stephen are also thriving in the group home environment.
“Stephen was not confident in his communication but he is now coming out of his shell,” Mrs Andersen said.
“He feels respected again and he has recently reconnected with his brother who lives interstate.
“Everyone feels valuted here — in a nursing home at their age they didn’t. Now they are able to be as independent as possible.”
According to a YPIRAC program evaluation report for NSW released in March 2011, there were 2358 people aged under 65 living in nursing homes in NSW, including 158 in the Nepean/Blue Mountains region. YPIRAC directly assisted 268 people under 65 living in aged care facilities including 17 in Nepean/Blue Mountains.
The state government is continuing to fund the YPIRAC program in NSW, but only on a priority basis targeting the under 50s as places become available.
Eloura residential manager Chris Hurley said “it’s the best prograpm I’ve been a part of because you can clearly see it is making a difference to individuals.”
He said the residents will move from Warrimoo to a state-funded, purpose-built home in Springwood that’s due to open in early 2015.
*Surnames omitted for privacy reasons.