Bill’s story - The strength of community care

01 December 2023

Bill Gray health Ability mf DOVE April2023064 A9720

Meet Bill

The age old saying, ‘It takes a village’, certainly rings true in Bill’s life experience, from past through to present day.

From a young age, 65-year-old William Gray, better known as ‘Bill’, has been loved and nurtured by his family, including his brother and two sisters. Despite being born with cerebral palsy, having an intellectual disability, and epilepsy, he lives independently in supported accommodation supplied by Life Without Borders in Box Hill.

Bill is also assisted by a large community of integrated health care workers, including general practitioners, VALID (Victorian Advocacy League for Individuals with Disability), and healthAbility, who is proud to play a role in this strong support network.

“I have been living at this home for five years now, and I have been using healthAbility services for about the same amount of time,” Bill remarks through slow, slurred speech.

In that period, Bill has utilised many of our services, including Speech Therapy, Podiatry, Occupational Therapy, Allied Health Assistant Services and Dietetics.

Bill refuses to let any obstacle slow him down – literally, proven by the fast pace he sets with the aid of his walker.

“If you think this is fast, you should see me on the scooter,” he says with a cheeky smirk.

His scooter allows him to stay connected to a myriad of activities including TAFE, swimming lessons, gym sessions, café catchups, medical appointments, and most importantly - AFL matches, so he can cheer on his beloved Carlton.

Meet Andrea – Bill’s Allied Health Assistant

“Bill’s a great bloke. He loves to get out-and-about and one of the things he has on his new iPad, which we helped him secure through this NDIS funding, is the Carlton theme song, so he can play it whenever he feels like annoying his house mates,” says Andrea with a laugh.

“I started working with Bill over a year ago, after one of our Speech Pathologists completed her initial speech and swallowing assessments and suggested Bill use an App called ‘Predictable’.

“His cerebral palsy causes dysarthria meaning he speaks slowly, with great difficulty, and struggles with saliva issues, clearing and using his airways properly, and swallowing as well. In Bill’s situation, he can find it difficult to pronounce some words especially if he’s becoming tired. I’ve been assisting him programme Predictable on his new iPad with his commonly used phrases and teaching him how to update them himself so he can communicate more easily in social settings.”

Bill appreciates the aid of the iPad especially when he’s having a communication breakdown.

“Sometimes I find it quicker to use the Predictable App, it helps if I can’t say something, I can just type the words and turn the volume up and let the iPad do the talking.”

The allied health team are also investigating the option of mounting Bill’s iPad to his scooter to make it more accessible for him.

Meet Carol – Bill’s Dietitian

Carol has also enjoyed working with Bill, saying, “Bill is easy going and accepting of suggestions and changes. When he first came to us in 2019, he needed a lactose free diet and his supported accommodation needed suggestions for good calcium replacement sources. He also had some digestive issues and was slightly underweight, so I worked with him around fibre and nutrition goals and developed a meal plan in conjunction with his support worker.”

Carol continues, “We monitored Bill’s calorie intake, encouraged additional snacks throughout the day and initially weighed him monthly until his weight stabilised and then just checked in quarterly over the next two years until 2021. The plan we have in place now is serving him well, but we welcome him to reconnect with us anytime in the future if he ever needs further assistance.”

Meet Sarah – Bill’s Occupational Therapist

More recently, Sarah has been reviewing Bill’s needs and equipment to keep him living as safely and independently as possible.

“We have completed a successful trial with Bill using some built-up cutlery, such as an angled spoon to reduce the risk of spills and reliance on carers. I have also been doing some basic refurbishing, replacing some old equipment such as his deteriorated shower chair, making it safer for his personal care. As an Occupational Therapist, we work within the client’s space, whether that be their home, work, school, or in Bill’s case, his supported living accommodation - so any interventions are done in their place of residence.”

3 health professionals standing together smiling. One is holding a plate to show food portions, another is holding an angles spoon, and one is holding an iPad
Carol, Sarah and Andrea from the healthAbility allied health team.

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