“I’m very happy to be in the hands of the wonderful caring staff at healthAbility and I’m looking forward to a little more relaxation in my life because of their help.” -Judy

Great-grandmother Judy has a long history of putting the needs of others before herself. At 84 years of age, she has raised three beloved sons, cared for her elderly parents and aunt, taught primary school children and adults with an intellectual disability. More recently, she nursed her eldest son, 60 year-old Ritchie as he lost his long battle with cancer.  It was his final two years that were the toughest, thankfully her middle son Steven moved into the bungalow of her Eltham home to help care for them both. The traumatic ordeal has understandably taken a huge toll on Judy and her family. “I just let myself go, I didn’t get myself seen to or change medications or get my teeth checked or anything because we were so busy with Richie.” Today the focus is back on her own wellbeing. “I neglected myself and I’m catching up now,” she admits.

She moved to healthAbility as her chosen care provider five months ago after seeing healthAbility’s noticeboard saying ‘covering My Aged Care’ she thought she’d make and enquiry and it was Russell, Care Manager Home Care Packages who answered and said, ‘yes I think we can help you.’  “Once we moved to healthAbility the windows and gutters were cleaned almost immediately, it was prompt,” says Judy.  They also received subsidised tree lopping and they are getting a gardener next, which Judy is immensely grateful for.

“I think the Council organised the first help I ever got from healthAbility about 5 or 6 years ago after I’d had a few big falls in my 70’s. They installed all of my handrails from the front gate to the front door, raised the toilet seat and I was given a walker too.”  She is now linked up and using many of the services on offer at healthAbility’s Eltham centre including, Podiatry, Dental, Psychology and a Falls Prevention program.

“I am the matriarch of my family, nobody is older than me,” shares Judy, but despite her impressive age, it hasn’t been an easy achievement.  She has endured a lifetime of painful and debilitating health issues and openly shares her story.

In her late 30’s severe scoliosis caused one of her vertebrae to snap and it has continued to contort and shrink her frame overtime by five inches or 12.7cm. This causes chronic pain and imbalance and has led to many humiliating falls.  Most days she’s unable to stand or walk for long periods meaning she can’t cook large meals or do much around the house or her beloved garden. Complications from chronic irritable bowel syndrome have proven debilitating. The onset of narcolepsy put an end to her driving and her career as a teacher.  More recently she’s been battling chronic fatigue, macular degeneration and slight dementia.

Under the dutiful care of Care Managers Russell and Yu Ping, Judy’s needs and capabilities have been reassessed as qualifying for a Level 3 Home Care Package, which means she will move from two hours per week of home care services to eight hours.  This will make a world of difference, it means Judy can keep living semi-independently in the home she loves. “Now I have a wonderful person called Karen coming to the house and she does things like cleaning, cooking or shopping, whatever I need.  For example yesterday the house wasn’t that messy so Karen cooked a huge casserole, it was delicious.” Steve says with a smile, “they are becoming friends too.”

“Now when friends and family ask how I am I say, ‘Yes love, I’m doing fine but I’m on the turn.’  That’s a term my mum used in the depression years when the chops went a bit of an off colour and she’d rub them with vinegar to give’em a bit more life.”  Judy says she’s recently had two elderly friends put into residential care and admits that might be her fate too but adds, “I’m not ready yet. I would like to die at home and it won’t be far away because I am definitely on the turn. We joke a lot but it’s true, I’m prepared for whatever comes next.”

“Russell and Yu Ping are wonderful, professional people; they know exactly what we need. How lucky am I to still be sitting here?” says Judy as she sips tea under the dappled shade of her old oak tree.

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