Simone Kealy, Author at Afea Care Services

How Supported Independent Living helps participants achieve their goals

If your goal is to increase your independence while still being supported by carers that really care, one of our Supported Independent Living facilities might be for you.

Here we speak with our Accommodation Manager, Sri. He explains how our Supported Independent Living homes can help you achieve more independence.

What is Supported Independent Living?

In Supported Independent Living homes, you live independently with the support of an accommodation manager and your Afea carers.

At Afea, we have two supported independent living facilities in Sydney. The first is our Oxley Park Homes, which comprises three recently refurbished townhouses with private backyards. These homes are ideal for young male NDIS participants with psychosocial or intellectual disabilities.

Our residents enjoy playing basketball, watching TV, movie nights and BBQs among other activities. Often the boys come up with ideas to plan a day trip exploring nearby national parks, the Blue Mountains or one of Sydney’s beautiful beaches.

Our other Supported Independent Living home is our St Clair Women’s Home. We can provide around the clock support in this spacious four-bedroom home for young women living with psychosocial or intellectual disabilities with low to high care needs.

The girls at St Clair enjoy their walks, going out shopping with carers, engaging in arts and craft sessions, and let’s not forget make-up and hair styling.

How do you help clients achieve their goals in Supported Independent Living?

Sri: We create a care plan for each person which includes what their interests are and what goals they want to achieve. Then the carers can work with the clients really closely to achieve those goals

We support people to live as independently as possible. It doesn’t mean we do things for them, we provide support for them to do it themselves. We help them build the skills to be as independent as possible.

What are some examples of goals that have been achieved?

Sri: We had one particular resident who had very challenging behaviours, having always lived in institutional care. She moved in with us and we created a routine for her, and helped her become more engaged with us and her social workers.

When she joined us, she knew little about cooking so we helped her learn some new dishes. She is now so happy and chatty with the care workers.

The last time she had her assessment, her support practitioner complemented the improvements in her behaviour and how well we must be working with her.

Unexpectedly, the lockdown has provided another opportunity for our residents to learn new skills. We’re helping our residents use more technology like laptops and phones. They can keep in touch with family and do psychology sessions online. It’s been another way of building capacity and building new skills during the unfortunate lockdown. It was initially quite challenging for some of the residents to access everything online, but we’ve been able to teach them a lot about how to stay safe.

What do you find most challenging?

Sri: It can be difficult when there is a new resident who isn’t used to the routine. We have streamlined many activities and processes so when something is not working, we can more easily identify the issue and make a change. This way, we can be on top of everything before there are any incidents.

It’s also been difficult recently with the restrictions. We try to do more activities inside the house like cooking competitions, movie nights, video games. We’ve focused on keeping our clients busy inside the house so they can maintain their mental health and not get bored. That’s been an enormous challenge for our residents that we’re working through together.

For our clients with psychosocial disabilities, if they stay in the house too often it can trigger psychotic episodes which can put their mental health in danger. It’s been important to focus on engaging with them and providing safe and risk-free activities during the lockdown. For instance, we’re installing a basketball hoop for the boys to have fun and be active without having to leave the home.

If you’d like to know more about our Supported Independent Living facilities, get in touch.

“How Afea helped me discover my true potential” – Archna Sharma

If you’ve called Afea recently, you may have spoken to our concierge, Archna. She came to us in an unusual way. Before Archna started working with us… she was one of our clients! Here Archna explains how Afea helped her grow into a confident and balanced person.

How I found Afea

I didn’t think I needed support as I’d always done everything on my own. I’d been to uni, I’d lived on my own, I thought I was fine.

But looking back, I wasn’t in a great place. I was suffering from pretty severe anxiety and depression. It got to where I couldn’t even go to the local grocery store because I was too scared. My anxiety had become debilitating.

My friend introduced me to Afea two years ago. She reminded me it’s often the people who can’t ask for help who need it the most.

It was so refreshing to let down my guard and take away all the biases I had around asking for help.

How Afea helped me

I started with a few support services to help me get out and about. Just having someone to hold your hand can help show you that the world isn’t such a scary place. The Afea carers know they can’t force someone to change. Their secret is shining the guiding light so you can see things more clearly.

Over time, my entire perspective changed. I realised that I’d built things up to be so big in my mind that I couldn’t find a way out of my thoughts.

The combination of seeing a psychologist, taking medication for a short amount of time and my Afea carers helped me realise I can do anything I want to do. By having someone right there at side, they showed me I could do it.

Archna with some Afea Carers, clients and leaders at the Parramatta Hub Opening

How things have changed

My path has gone in a completely different direction over the past two years. I went from being too scared to leave the house to enrolling in TAFE courses because I want to learn more. I recently completed a health administration course, and I just enrolled in a certificate in pathology collection.

I’ve even had a career change. I worked for years in the fitness industry, but I had lost interest in it. I recently started a new job…. at Afea! That’s right, I’ve gone from receiving Afea services to working at Afea.

I’m a concierge, which means I answer phones and make sure clients and carers receive the help they need. Working at Afea has completely broadened my horizons and opened my mind up to other peoples’ way of thinking.

Archna at work with Effie

What the future looks like

Two years ago, I was living life in survival mode. Getting by, scraping through. Now I’ve learnt life shouldn’t be like that. I’m learning to appreciate things and live my life in the moment.

There are days when I get fearful, but I’m more attuned to those feelings and know how to deal with it in a more abundant way. That’s the fundamental difference for me.

I know those feelings are going to arise since we’re all human. But I can manage it a lot better because I now have confidence in myself.

Afea ranked one of Australia’s Best Places to Work

We’re thrilled to announce that we’ve been recognised as one of Australia and New Zealand’s Best Places to Work! We’re ranked 3rd in the annual list, published in the Australian Financial Review BOSS Magazine.

This is an enormous achievement for Afea. There were over 700 organisations considered and they chose us after doing an assessment, including a staff survey and a written submission.

In a year when many workplaces cut staff and saw reduced morale, we soared. Not only did we increase our staff, we added a new office in Parramatta and we found alternative ways to connect and grow.

Why is Afea a great place to work?

Officially, we received an AFR Boss Best Places to Work award because of our Anniversary Bonus scheme. In this scheme, we award our employees a bonus on each work anniversary so that they feel increasingly valued for their time.

We love that we received the award for this scheme, as it’s a wonderful way to give back to our employees. However, there are lots of other reasons Afea is the best place to work.

AFR Best Places to Work
Afea is one of Australian Financial Review BOSS Best Places to Work

1. We make a difference

Our number one goal is to be the most trusted care provider. Every day, we come to work with this in mind. Whether we care for one of our amazing clients or provide support from the office, we are always trying to make a difference.

There is nothing better than speaking to a client and finding out what goals they’ve achieved, thanks in part to the support of our carers and staff.

2. We promote positive mental health

We know we can’t take care of others until we are taking care of ourselves. At Afea, we have a huge emphasis on working on our mental health. We have free meditation sessions for both staff and carers, an open culture and regular catch ups so we can bring up any issues we’re having.

We’ve even done a mental health first aid course to give us the skills to help our family, friends, colleagues and clients.

3. We celebrate our differences

We think it’s important to learn more about each other and celebrate what makes us all special. Afea is an incredibly diverse workplace, and we like to celebrate that. Whether it’s through Harmony Week or various cultural celebrations, we love finding out how our differences can help us learn more about each other.

Everyone who works at Afea already thinks it’s the best place to work.

But it’s wonderful that it’s now official 😊

Would you like to learn more about working at Afea? Join us!  

Esha’s interview on ABC Radio

Founder and CEO of Afea, Esha Oberoi spoke with Nas Campanella on ABC Radio Sydney about the workforce challenges in the support work industry.

After a string of unrewarding jobs that lasted no more than 6 months, Esha Oberoi fell into support work in her early 20s. As Esha puts it, she walked in and had a pulse, therefore was hired. Only on-the-job training, and not much in the way of background checks.

Esha felt a deep connection with her clients, noticing they were feeling the same isolation she had felt through her teenage years due to her depression and anxiety. That’s when she decided to do something about it.

Nas Campanella, Esha Oberoi, Kaitlin Mountain and Jo Berry at ABC studios

Founding a business at 24

Noticing that many of her clients didn’t need full-time care, Esha decided that she would attempt to redefine what care meant, and how it was delivered.

This started not in residential care, but in the home. By educating families to the benefits of home care, Esha was able to keep people in their homes, with their families for longer. All they need is a skilled support worker with whom they have a connection.

Shifting industry standards for support work

The pattern of the industry has always been to hire a support worker, and send them to clients. Esha knew that this wasn’t going to be helpful for anyone, so she decided early on that she would invest heavily in training, and upskilling.

Today our support workers (Afea Carers) have an induction, on-the-job training with their clients, and regular on-site check-ins from our Care Managers.

Challenges with finding support workers

The industry has seen many changes since the role out of the NDIS, which has seen many providers pop up, and a shortage of support workers. Esha wants the community to know about how rewarding this industry is, and how many opportunities can come from it.

She spoke with ABC’s disability affairs reporter Nas Campanella about these challenges, and how we fix it – by telling our stories!


Click here to listen now!

Selfie of Esha, Kaitlin and Jo with headphones on in ABC radio studio

5 ways you can celebrate International Day of Friendship (even if you’re in lockdown)

We share how we’re celebrating friendships and committing to making new ones

The 30th of July is the United Nation’s International Day of Friendship. You might say this year hasn’t exactly been ‘friendly’, has it? There’s been anti-racist protests, increasing anger between some of the most powerful nations and of course a global pandemic. So, I’m sure you’ll agree that celebrating and strengthening friendships has never been more important than it is now. What is the International Day of Friendship and how can you celebrate it?

What is the International Day of Friendship?

The UN General Assembly declared the 30th of July as a day of significance in 2011. They believe that friendship between people, cultures and countries can inspire peace and build bridges.

According to the United Nations:

“The resolution places emphasis on involving young people, as future leaders, in community activities that include different cultures and promote international understanding and respect for diversity.”

That sounds like something worth celebrating to us! At Afea, celebrating diversity and promoting international understanding is a huge part of our culture.

With that in mind, here are some ways you can celebrate the International Day of Friendship (even if you’re in lockdown).

Call or see your friends and tell them how much you care about them

This is an obvious one – on this International Day of Friendship, it’s important to get in contact with your friends. Since COVID-19 hit our shores, you may not have seen your friends as often as usual (or perhaps not at all). For many of us, the focus has been about getting through each day and supporting our family, so spending time with friends has taken a back seat. Which means it’s even more important to reach out to your friends today.

If you’re lucky enough to be living in a state with fewer restrictions, perhaps arrange to have coffee or dinner with a friend. Tell them how much they mean to you, even if you haven’t had a chance to see them over the past few months. If you’re back in lockdown (we’re with you Melbourne 😢), then give a friend a call or set up a video chat. Being in lockdown is incredibly isolating and being able to see or hear our friends is vital for our wellbeing.

Send your friend a card

Who doesn’t love receiving mail? Next time you’re at the supermarket, pick up a lovely card and write a heartfelt message to a friend, then post it or drop it in their letterbox. Or if you’re trying to do everything online right now, you can design personalised cards with companies like Moonpig. You can even add a picture of you and your friend and if you order by 2pm, it goes into today’s post.

Bake for your neighbours

International Day of Friendship isn’t just about celebrating the friends you already have but also about making new ones. While we have to stay close to home in these difficult times, we’ve all realised the importance of our local network. If you haven’t got to know your neighbours very well, a way to make a friendly impression is to bake them some biscuits or muffins.

Having good neighbours means there’s always someone to chat to over the fence or outside your door. You can also offer simple things like picking up some milk when you’re at the shop or being a standby in case of an emergency. It’s these simple interactions that can be so helpful in times of isolation and can help spread the message of friendship.

Reconnect with someone in your past

Maybe it’s that girl you went to primary school with or a colleague you’ve lost touch with. Perhaps it’s someone you had a great connection with, but your friendship drifted apart. Today could be an excuse for getting back in touch. Send them a text or a message on social media. It doesn’t have to be too long, just something like ‘I thought I’d use the International Day of Friendship as an excuse to say Hi. I hope you’ve been doing ok over the past few months.”

It’s nice to get in touch with people right now because there’s no pressure to meet up in person if you don’t want to. You can just send a friendly text and re-establish the connection.

Celebrate diversity

As International Day of Friendship is about diversity, use this day to learn more about the diverse cultures that make up Australia. If you’re in a workplace, everyone could share their favourite dishes from their cultures. Or they could share a bit about their backgrounds and the favourite parts of their cultures.


If you’re in lockdown, you could do some research about diversity. There are amazing ABC TV programs such as Waltzing the Dragon, You Can’t Ask That and other perspectives on SBS Voice’s website. You could even commit to learning to cook a new international dish and serve it for dinner.

Do you have any other ways of celebrating International Day of Friendship?

Ever wondered “What does Afea stand for?”

We’re often asked, “What does Afea stand for?”. Is it a word? An acronym? An anagram?

To make sense of the story, you have to go back to the beginning. When our CEO Esha Oberoi founded the business in 2008, she had been working in a nursing home caring for the residents. She quickly noticed some of them didn’t require round the clock care and could have remained living at home.

Esha had been battling with poor mental health for some time and noticed the same feelings of isolation and helplessness in some of the residents in the nursing home. She decided to be the change she wanted to see and created a service that sought to empower the older community with independence. Providing support in the comfort of their own homes would prolong the need for residential care.

Through helping others, Esha gained self-confidence, and her own wounds started to heal. Her clients were her family, and her true family were there in support. She had found her place in the world.

The name for the business was never going to be something clinical or obvious. With Esha being so personally attached to her Mission, it had to come from the heart. She decided it would be an acronym of her immediate family’s names, her father Anurag, sister Freya, herself Esha and mother Anju.

Afea stands for family. This is the foundation on which the business was built and remains to this day, despite growing to operate nationally.

Employees think of their team and their clients as an extension of their family, their workplace a second home. All decisions made are in the best interest of the Afea community, and that’s the way it will always be.

Check out our culture book for the Afea journey and to hear from the team!

Disability and Homelessness

As it gets colder outside and we snuggle up under the blankets at night, spare a thought for those in our community who do not have a warm bed or shelter tonight. While anyone can find themselves experiencing homelessness, a person with a disability may be at a higher risk of it, and find it harder to overcome once they are experiencing it. Hospitals and Government agencies are stretched and are on high alert because of COVID-19, it is vital during this time that we provide support to those that are most vulnerable to homelessness.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) reports that 1 in 12 people who engage specialist homelessness services (SHS) have a disability, and of those, 1 in 3 have a ‘profound disability’. AIHW state that SHS clients with a disability need a greater number of different services and support for a longer period than those without disability. Furthermore, 62% of SHS clients with a disability also experience a mental health issue, as opposed to 35% without. This limits their capacity to navigate the healthcare system and organise the necessary supports required to address their situation.

Even without the extraordinary drain on resources caused by COVID-19, hospitals often find it hard to discharge patients with a disability, due to the nature of confronting care needs of this cohort. These patients remain in hospital for longer than necessary because their circumstances are not fit for them to be discharged.

Often this comes down to the person not having the necessary supports to be safely discharged. Supports may be in the form of care at home, transportation, community-based or appropriate housing. At times, when the criteria are not met, hospitals have no choice but to send the person to a residential aged care facility.

Hospitals and aged care facilities are under pressure at this time more than any other, as they are not appropriate places for people to be housed unnecessarily. The public sector, not-for-profit organisations and disability providers all must work together to source housing options for people with a disability.

People with a disability deserve to be living in a safe, stable home that offers necessary supports, while allowing them to become independent. Hospitals and aged care facilities are not a sustainable option, and provide only a short term solution. Accommodation providers can provide fully supported living arrangements where 24/7 care, organised interventions, allied health supports and engagement with community helps the individual improve their ability to live independently with stability.

Afea Care Services has been working closely with case managers, social workers and Government agencies to ensure no one is left behind. We have been assisting homeless people with a disability to access the funding they are entitled to and navigating the health care system. We are accomplishing our  Mission to Empower People through our initiatives in sourcing suitable housing options for people with disabilities and facilitating the process to access NDIS.

If you are currently working with a participant who may be at risk of homelessness or an NDIS participant with a goal towards living in Supported Independent Living, we would love to help you.

Please contact us to discuss further.

Resources:
More about Supported Independent Living
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW)
Lifeline: 13 11 14

5 Minutes with… Adi

Meet Aditya. More affectionately known as Adi around the office, he is one of the newest members of our Intake Team, who on-board each and every client of Afea’s. His friendliness, enthusiasm for helping others and ability to learn quickly, immediately made him a valued part of the team. Here’s a little about his journey in 5 Minutes with Adi.

“My name is Aditya and I have recently completed a degree at UNSW. It’s completion overlapped with COVID-19, which impacted every aspect of life. Cancelled travel plans, delayed graduation ceremonies and large amounts of uncertainty about my future.

Amidst all the chaos, I was fortunate enough to stumble across Afea.  My journey here has been nothing short of magical. I would love to take you on a trip down memory lane to explore how I came across the best workplace I’ve been a part of.

I was born and brought up in New Delhi, where I was a typical boy who loved his sports and jumped on every opportunity to avoid studies! My parents have always had a big influence on my life in terms of my values and work ethic. I finished high school in Delhi and moved to Pune to pursue my bachelors and then went onto work for Zomato. The true impact of this move was something I would come to realise in the future.

I arrived in January 2018 to begin my journey Down Under. With no family, friends, or a network in Australia, this was a challenge that scared me, yet, I was excited to face it. My love for travelling, meeting new people and talking helped during those initial months here.

The more of Australia I discovered, the more I fell in love with it. A feeling of gratitude took over and I was thankful to be where I was. Australia is the perfect place for someone like me with a passion for sports and travel. I knew during my 2 years at university that I would love to give back to the country I now call home in any way I can.

Fast forward to February 2020, fresh out of university, I was keen to start my career and use my skill set to its maximum potential. That’s when I came across Afea.

Right after my first phone interview, I knew there was something special about Afea. The interaction was extremely warm, comfortable and I felt heard. Things progressed forward and I was lucky enough to be invited to their wonderful office for further interactions. The moment I entered there was a positive vibe that hit me. I am a big believer in energies and frequencies between people and environments, and Afea was a workplace that had an X factor to it. The people, the office, the warmth – everything caught my eye and stuck with me.

Afea gave me a chance to be a part of a family. That’s exactly what we are – the amazing interactions, constant support and backing from the entire group is phenomenal. We push each other to learn and grow each day and to take pride in the way we operate internally and externally.

From a fast-paced tech-selling environment in India to the Disability Sector in Australia, the change was a drastic one which I was apprehensive to face. The industry, providers, all stakeholders, all ‘Afeans’ welcomed me with open arms. The interactions I’ve had over the past few months have been some of the best of my life. The people I’ve met, the stories I’ve heard are some of the most precious memories that I will hold very close to me.

The culture created by our CEO, Esha, is commendable. An environment of understanding, respect, and support.  One thing that really stood out in those early days, is Afea’s genuine desire to help the community. I saw teams go above and beyond their duties to help individuals, and the passion everyone has for what they do is contagious. I too, thankfully, caught the bug. 

I strongly believe that there is nothing more important than one’s family and to see the direct positive impact the work we do at Afea on the families we help is heart-warming and it keeps us going.

My love and passion for Afea and the healthcare industry has grown consistently, and I owe it all the wonderful people I’ve met, and the conversations I’ve had. I can confidently say that the people in this industry is what makes it stand out from all others.

The last few months have been surreal. I look forward to the times to come with Afea and the beautiful journey that lies ahead…”

A Milestone Celebration for Anj

There are certain people in the world that have a lasting impact on you, no matter if you meet them for five minutes or have known them for five years. Our very own Anju is one of those people.

It is rare to see her without a smile, she is never upset or angry, and always keeps her cool. Even when she was stuck in a lift near the office, fighting off a panic attack due to a mild case of claustrophobia, she was still laughing her head off whilst on loudspeaker with her teammates, who were helplessly waiting for the fire fighters to arrive.

Anju is the office mum. Metaphorically because of her caring nature, but also very literally. She is the mother of our CEO, Esha. When Esha first started the business over 12 years ago on her own, her mother was there every day.

At first bringing lunch because she knew her daughter wasn’t allowing herself enough time away from work to eat it. Then as they got busier she started answering phones. Skip ahead over a decade and Anj is still here, everyday supporting her daughter, Afea’s clients and all of her colleagues.

Anj doesn’t need to continue to work. She comes in every day because she loves it. She loves her daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren, all of whom she gets to see most days in the office, she loves her work family, and she truly cares about the clients she’s supporting every day.

This month we celebrated a milestone birthday of Anj’s in the office. We surprised her with a high tea while some of her family from overseas joined virtually.

Happy birthday Anju, Afea wouldn’t be where it is today without your commitment, positivity and propensity to go above and beyond.

We love you!

6 Mindfulness Myths

The practise of mindfulness and meditation are getting more and more accepted in everyday life. Large corporations such as Google encourage their staff to practise mindfulness to increase wellbeing and focus. Schools often use it to settle children after breaks, and many medical practitioners recommend its use to treat different conditions. But even so, there are a lot of persistent misconceptions about mindfulness and what it actually is. So here’s 6 myths about mindfulness for you to meditate on.

1. Mindfulness is emptying your mind

Probably the most common misconception about mindfulness, when the in fact, the opposite is true. It is about focusing all of your attention in a purposeful way. Thoughts will pop up, and the aim is to notice them come and go, without attaching any positive or negative feelings to them.

2. Mindfulness is meditation

Although they overlap, they are not the same. Meditation is taking time to focus your awareness, whereas mindfulness is a more broad term, referring to being aware of and focused on anything you’re doing at a particular time.

3. Meditation and mindfulness are spiritual

Although they are both big parts of certain spiritualities and beliefs, they are not inherently spiritual at all. The main ideology that focusing your attention on everything you do, and being present in every moment is about the self and is universal.

4. I have to sit awkwardly

Depending on what you’re trying to achieve, mindfulness and meditation actually works best if you’re comfortable. The more comfortable you are, the better you can start focusing your attention elsewhere. It is best practised in a sitting position or lying down.

5. It’s just taking time to rest and relax

Although the effects of meditation can be very calming, the practice itself it actually quite challenging. But don’t worry, it gets easier with time. It is recommended that beginners start with 5 or 10 minutes at a time. Experienced people can remain in focus for hours!

6. I don’t have time to practise mindfulness

Mindfulness is a way of being, it can be practised anywhere, anytime. The idea behind it is to focus on what you’re doing, in the moment you’re doing it, whole-heartedly.

Next time you brush your teeth, drive a car or eat a meal, try focusing on every movement you make. When other thoughts pop up, tease your mind back to the task at hand attaching positive or negative feelings to them. The better you get at this, the more you’ll be able to live and enjoy the moment, and be able to handle stressful situations level-headedly.

To give it a go, check out our blog explaining mindfulness, it’s benefits, and a little practice you can do anywhere, anytime.