My son has been supported by Real Living Options since 1997. He lives independently in a home of his own choice, where he is very happy and content with his lifestyle.
Self confidence and decision making have always been encouraged since being supported by Real Living Options.
He was recently assisted by his staff to move into a new rental property. He is very proud of the fact that he had the final decision in the choice of the property and he was involved in all aspects of moving house.
I am very satisfied with the service we receive from Real Living Options.
“Real Living Options has assisted my son since the Service began 20 years ago. He has been provided with many opportunities and this has allowed him to become much more independent and self-reliant. My son enjoys his life and is assisted in his home as well as with community activities such as shopping and recreation and leisure activities. I know that the support and assistance received from Real Living Options has made a big difference in his life.“
E.B. – mother
“A Meeting of Like Minds”
Sometimes chance meetings can change your life. Such an event back in June 2011 altered the lives of our little family not only dramatically, but definitely for the better! We met two members of Real Living Options Inc. at a weekend workshop for parents/carers, run by the MAMRE organisation, called “Pave The Way”.
The idea behind the workshop as many of you may know, is to plan for and effect a better life for the loved one for whom you care. In this case it was our daughter, who had been diagnosed six years earlier with a severe mental illness and a relatively rare genetic syndrome called V.C.F.S (Velo-cardial-facial syndrome). After the initial shock and grieving for what could have been, my husband and I began a determined effort to ensure that our daughter could enjoy the best life possible and an ordinary “normal” life within the limitations placed on her by her illness.
Naturally clinicians, psychologists, doctors and personnel from Qld. Disability Service (DS) were involved. We were/are worried that our daughter will not be alone and dependent after we die. This is a common and pressing concern for any parent of a disabled person.
With “dogged diplomacy” we managed to achieve a very good Housing and Support Package (HASP) for our girl which included a small home of her own and a significant number of support hours.
DS recommended a Support Provider in our regional city, Cairns, which they felt could accommodate her complex needs and guide her towards a degree of independence. We were thrilled and optimistic.
Unfortunately, this service provider had a philosophy and practice of “tough love” and insisted we not see our daughter and have her over for the weekend, overnight or any significant time in the first few months. Their strategy was to “wean” her off her parents.
This was a disaster! Not only did our daughter suffer increased anxiety and stress due to this radical separation, so did we. We entreated the service / psychologists and the Qld Mental Health team for some degree of compassion & flexibility. This was refused by the Service Provider and a threat of withdrawal of their support was clearly stated if we didn’t “stop interfering”!
Cyclone Yasi was the last straw and our daughter became floridly psychotic under their care, admitted to the CBH Psychiatric ward for 6 weeks, and she underwent multiple sessions of Electroconvulsive Therapy to restore her to a stable state.
During her time in hospital the Support Service “Carers” rarely (some never) visited her or enquired after her health. We became severely distressed and sought assistance once more from the DS who seemed unable to supply alternatives. If our daughter stayed with this “mob” her future looked very bleak! We were intimidated, bullied and ”stone-walled” all around.
We went to the Pave The Way” weekend and met Margaret and Anne who told us of the family-driven service they belonged to, which actually believed in and practiced the philosophy of families being the Natural Authority and, therefore, should have significant involvement and input into the support of their child’s care. Hope returned!
We rang the Service Manager of Real Living Options (Mandy Nielsen) and were totally reassured that this service would see our daughter as a) an Individual, b) a person who could lead an ordinary life with assistance/support; c) a daughter who needed her parents’ support and presence in her life.
All at once the pressure, stress, sadness and fear diminished. We set about transferring our daughter to Real Living Options, and within three weeks she was in their care. We cannot stress how different the whole model is. Her Lifestyle assistants really like her and understand her. They are encouraged to have regular contact with us if anything arises which needs our input (the support workers in the previous service were forbidden to contact us and vice versa). She has an individualised flexible care plan. Life is unpredictable, and RLO understands this. She has learned many life skills and domestic responsibilities. She enjoys a social life and has friends within the service. She is 32 years old and has never enjoyed this before!
We trust her Lifestyle Assistants, who are compassionate, caring, mature people. We can discuss anything with the Support Coordinators’ Team Leader and RLO office personnel. Information regarding the best support for our girl goes in all directions. It is a most satisfactory and reassuring relationship.
It is people who care for people. RLO holds the principle of individualised care and family involvement close to its heart. The Mission Statement (see website) is followed – they “walk the talk”.
Handing your child over to someone else to care for is a big step. My husband and I have found that it is not just this, but rather like entering a wider extended “family” of people who will walk with our daughter, and ourselves, to promote her needs and interests in achieving an “ordinary” life.
Isn’t that what we all want and deserve?
Suzi and Rob Shennan