Disability Archives - Afea Care Services

Our very own Afean Paralympian – Wayne

One of the highlights of the past few months of lockdown has been watching the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympic Games. It was amazing to see these athletes work so hard to represent Australia.  

We recently discovered that we have a Paralympic champion in our ranks! One of our clients, Wayne Maher, represented Australia in the Kick ball in the Seoul Paralympics in 1988.

Memories of the 1988 Paralympics

The 1988 Paralympic Games were significant as they were considered the first Games of the modern Paralympic era. According to the first President of the International Paralympic Committee Dr Bob Steadward: “The 1988 Seoul Paralympics dramatically demonstrated the effects of proper organisation and the shift from sport as rehabilitation to sport as recreation to elite sport.”

 Wayne represented Australia in Slalom, Kick ball and Wheelchair racing.

“Cerebral Palsy Alliance ran their own internal Olympics, and that’s how I got started,” he told us.

There were many challenges in preparing for the Games, particularly as it was the first. Wayne said it was an exciting moment when he found out he’d qualified.

“I was really happy, but also a little anxious. I had to do a lot of competing to qualify and I was very proud of my achievement,” he said.

His sister Lorraine remembers her brother going to the Seoul Paralympics. Although she couldn’t join him to watch, she remembers she also had lots to do to get him ready for competition.

“I had just bought a new sewing machine. You could program it to write ‘Wayne Maher – Australia’. I hit the button, and it made hundreds of labels so we could sew it on all his clothes. Everything had to be labelled,” she told us.

Wayne didn’t win any medals in the Paralympics, but he had better success in the Commonwealth Games.  

Wayne said when he was in the Paralympics, he had more movement with his legs.

“He would race in his wheelchair backwards. He’d push with his foot and go backwards,” Lorraine explained.

 Wayne also remembers enjoying his time in Seoul, particularly “when they let us out without armed guards.”

Fun with Afea Carers

Wayne lives with an acquired brain injury and communicates through a computer and joystick.

After stints in group homes, he’s been living on his own for over 20 years and he loves the independence.

“He really loves it because he’s by himself. He’s got his own things. No one is borrowing them or anything like that,” Lorraine explained.

Wayne can live on his own thanks to his carers who visit multiple times a day. While getting out and about during lockdown was obviously difficult, before the outbreak, his Afea Carers used to take him to the shops, to clubs and to the beach.

Despite his communication difficulties, Wayne’s sense of humour shines through.

“We can still have a good joke. He has a wicked sense of humour!” Lorraine said.

According to Wayne, that’s what he most likes about his Afea Carers.

“I like to joke around with them. Sometimes I call them budi (sic),” he said.

 Thanks for sharing your Paralympic memories with us Wayne!

If you’d like to know more about our disability support services, get in touch

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.

From STEPtember and beyond: How we care for our complex needs clients

This month, many of us Afeans are doing the STEPtember challenge to raise funds for people with cerebral palsy. We’re dutifully taking 10,000 steps every day for 30 days. We hope the money we raise will go towards vital support like customising a wheelchair for a child or even help fund research to better understand the genetic causes of cerebral palsy.

STEPtember for Cerebral Palsy

For many of us, supporting people through complex care needs is not something we do just in September. At Afea, we work every day to provide care and support for some of our beautiful clients who live with a variety of conditions, like cerebral palsy.

Jesse is one of these Afeans. He has worked at Afea for three years, mainly as a Care Coordinator. Here he explains what he does in his role to facilitate care for Michael, one of our clients with cerebral palsy. He explains in his words

It’s important to listen

I’ve been a Care Coordinator for Michael for a few years. During that time, I’ve built a great rapport with him and his wife Janet.

Michael is almost non-verbal, although when I listen carefully, I can understand what he is saying. I think it’s important to take the time to listen to our clients with complex needs.

I think you should always do your best to understand what they’re communicating.

The nature of Michael’s disability limits his capacity to lead a normal life. Because of that, I understand how vulnerable he is. It’s so important to find him the right supports to help him achieve his goals.

For Michael, his primary goal is to have a meaningful life with dignity. He has 24 hour supports to help him with everything from showering and daily needs, cooking and cleaning and someone there overnight to make sure he stays safe and secure.

Finding specialist carers for someone with complex care needs

For people with physical disabilities like Michael, it’s important you find the right carers. In my role as Care Coordinator, I had to make sure every person who cared for him had the right training.

They need to have completed hoist training so they can move Michael out of his bed or chair and transfer him into other rooms.

They need experience with manual handling and using a pelican belt.

We also sometimes use our Registered Nurses for training due to some specific complex care needs.

It’s also important to have Support Workers who have plenty of experience. Some people may have done some training in an aged care facility, but it’s different working in NDIS because the work is so broad, dependent on needs.

Michael was in hospital last year after having surgery on his neck. After the surgery Michael had two Support Workers with him while he was there providing personal care, feeding him and giving him social support.

An occupational therapist also trained them to massage his neck and other areas where he had difficulties, like his hips. This helped him recover better after his surgery.

An ongoing relationship with Michael

I have to admit that it’s sometimes emotional work. I‘ve built a rapport with Michael and I see what he goes through. I can only do my best to facilitate his needs to help him live a meaningful life.

Recently, Michael had an issue with his wheelchair. There were a few issues with getting a repairer before his OT assessment. So, I went over in my own time and fixed his wheelchair. He appreciated that.

I wish I could do more to help him, although I visit when I can. I’ve recently taken on a new role at Afea but lucky for me, I will still be assigned to Michael and Janet, and even have access to a company car to help me get there. I can continue being there every step of the way, as much as I can.”

If you’d like to know more about our complex care support services, get in touch

How we’re providing virtual disability support services during lockdown

Many of our clients need daily disability support services and they are continuing during lockdown. We are doing everything we can to keep you safe and supported during this tough time.  

However, for some of our social support clients, it’s sometimes a safer option to suspend services. This is a difficult choice for clients and carers and is one that is made on a case-by-case basis .

For some of our clients, social support is vital and they still want to connect with their carers. One of our carers Farhiya has found a unique way she can still support her clients when she can’t see them face-to-face.

Here she explains.

My caring journey with Afea

I’ve always loved caring. I trained as a nurse in Africa before coming to Australia. I did various courses when I arrived and started working with Afea about 5 years ago.

I love caring and working with people and helping them. My clients are like part of my family. They love me; I love them.

How I’m providing services during lockdown

Some of my clients can’t be put on hold during lockdown because they need daily help. But a few of my clients need social support, so I wanted to give them that without the risk of seeing them face-to-face.

One of my clients is a child with autism. He finds it hard to communicate, so we usually spend our sessions reading and I engage with him to help him communicate better.

When I told his family that due to lockdowns we couldn’t meet face-to-face, they asked if we could do it over zoom. They organised some books we can read together, and we read them together online.

It’s helping him engage and communicate better, even during lockdown. The family is happy, the mother and father are so happy.

Singing is helping us get through lockdown

I have another client who I provide social supports to. This client I’ve had for about 3 years and whenever I am with her, the time always goes so fast. We always have so much fun together.

This client loves to sing and loves karaoke. So I thought that could be a fun thing to do together online.

She sends me the song she wants to sing and I look it up on YouTube. Then we zoom and I share my screen with her so she can see the pictures and the words. Then we sing together! It is always so much fun.

If you’d like to know more about our disability support services (both virtual and in person) 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!  

What is support work and how do you get into it?

Would you make a good disability support worker?

Have you ever thought about getting into disability support work? Here we answer your questions about what disability support work is and how you get into it.

What is a disability support worker?

A support worker or carer helps people with physical or intellectual disabilities in their day-to-day tasks. They have a wide range of tasks and responsibilities and their work can be very varied.

Support workers can help people with personal care such a showering, getting dressed, feeding and taking medication. They can provide practical help with transport, daily chores and making food. They can also provide vital social interaction and take clients out into the community to increase social enrichment and enjoyment.

Carers also provide much-needed emotional support to people with disabilities. They spend a lot of time with their clients, so often become like a close friend or trusted support. Support workers form strong bonds with their clients and become a crucial component in their lives.

What kind of person makes a good support worker?

The most important thing about working in care work is making sure you’ve got the right attitude. Are you passionate about helping others? If you answered yes, then you’re likely to be a great support worker.

As you’re going to be spending a lot of time with your clients, it’s important that you’re a people person and be good at building relationships. You need to be a good communicator as you may be helping your client communicate if they find it difficult themselves.

As you’re going to be working with vulnerable people and be welcomed into their homes, you must be very trustworthy. You always need to look after their health and safety and take responsibility for them.

What qualifications do you need for disability care work?

Although it’s not compulsory to have formal qualifications, some providers do need you to have a certificate III in Support Work, such as this TAFE NSW Course. It’s also a helpful way to learn more about the industry and get clear expectations about what it’s going to be like.

You also need to make sure you a police check, a first-aid certificate and a working with children check if you want to work with children. If you want to help clients by providing transport, you’ll need a reliable car and comprehensive insurance.

What extra talents could you bring to the job?

Every carer is different and brings unique perspectives to the lives of their clients. Think about what your interests are, what kind of client you want and what you’d like to share. Do you love movies? The outdoors? Could you play video games or talk sports all afternoon? Do you have any skills or hobbies that you can use to enrich the lives of your clients?

You may be spending a lot of time with your clients, so you want to be matched with people who you’re likely to get along with. You can use your skills to help your clients achieve their goals, whether it’s being more creative or learning something new.

How would being a support worker fit in with your life?

Being a support worker is a great, flexible job that is ideal for people who don’t necessarily want to work 9-5. People with disabilities need support at all hours of the day (and night!). People who are studying (especially nursing, psychology or social work) often find support work is an ideal part-time job to fit in with their course work. It is also a great, flexible role for those with a family or for people who want varied hours.

At Afea, we make sure we find you clients who are close to where you live so you won’t have to travel too far. We also do our best to find clients who you will fit with. It’s better for the clients and the support workers if everyone gets along.

Want to know more about becoming an Afea carer?

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

How we help our clients with their mental health

Why helping our clients with their mental health is so important at Afea

At Afea, talking about mental health isn’t something we only do on one awareness day or month. It’s pivotal to our workplace culture. We’ve spoken about how we work on mental health at work. As our carers spend most of their day with clients, we thought it was important to highlight how we help our clients with their mental health too.

We have learnt mental health first aid

With one in five of Australians experiencing a mental health illness each year, we recently trained up in mental health first aid. This amazing course gave us the skills to recognise when one of our friends, colleagues or clients is experiencing a mental health emergency and what to do about it. We are honoured to be part of the first million Australians to be trained up in mental health first aid.

We provide companionship services

Loneliness and isolation can have a profound effect on our mental health. A UK survey found that a quarter of people with a disability felt lonely every day. Loneliness has been compounded this year with Covid-19. People with a disability are considered more vulnerable so many people have had extended periods at home to avoid exposure to the virus.

The NDIA has made allowances for funding to be used more flexibly as a result of the pandemic, and people are able to use their funding in different ways. Often our clients would have services that took them out into the community or be involved in activities that are not as safe as they were. As an alternative, Afea carers have been visiting them in their homes to keep them company and do activities with them. It can be as simple as playing games, watching movies together or talking sport! Having this support and someone to spend time with can help reduce feelings of loneliness and social isolation and is a good way to use any outstanding funding.

We match carers and clients

When a new client joins us, we give a lot of thought to who we assign as a carer. Many of our clients see their carers every day, sometimes more than even their own family and friends. Which is why we find the best fit for both carers and clients. We match based on interests, cultural background and language so when they’re receiving services, they get along and become close. Feeling connected to someone can be a protective factor against anxiety and depression, so it’s vital that our carers and clients feel this genuine connection.

We check-in and follow up 

Caring for our clients’ mental health is just as important as their physical health. Our carers are so close to their clients that they can tell if they’re having a bad day. If they’re worried about a client for any reason, they report it back to head office. From there, we will have someone check-in with the client or we’ll talk to their family members. Our carers are like part of the family with their clients and always want what’s best for them.

We help our clients access social and community services

It’s not just about helping our clients within the home. We all know how important it is to get out and about for our mental health and it’s no different for our clients. We help our clients access social and community services such as craft groups, dance classes, book clubs or meetups with family and friends. We have provided extra PPE to make sure these social activities can go on wherever possible, even during this pandemic period.

If you want to know more about how we match our carers with our clients and the kind of services we provide, get in touch with us.

Our favourite Australian disability podcasts

What disability podcasts are you listening to?

Have you got on board with the podcast craze? 1.6million Australians regularly listen to podcasts and that number is growing all the time. We love listening to podcasts – it’s such a great way to learn new things and be entertained when we’re going for a walk or doing chores.

We also love the diversity of voices we can hear on podcasts. It allows a whole range of people to share their unique and fascinating stories. We particularly like podcasts that give people with a disability the opportunity to share their stories and opinions. Fortunately, there are many out there that do just that! Here are our top Australian disability podcasts.

ListenAble

You may remember Dylan Alcott, the Australian wheelchair basketballer and wheelchair tennis player. He recently started a podcast called ListenAble with his mate Angus O’Loughlin. They already have a weekend radio program on the Hit Network but started this podcast to talk more about life for people with a disability. They hope to break down the stigma of living with a disability by asking questions you thought were off-limits. They’re very experienced with the radio format so it’s easy to listen to and very entertaining. Listen to it here.

Inform

Inform is a national information hub for people with disabilities that already produces a website and a newsletter. Their podcast comes out monthly and is a conversation for people with disabilities about people with disabilities. It covers some fascinating topics – starting your own business, supported decision making, navigating the NDIS, finding a job. Plus, they speak to lots of inspiring people in the community who are living with a disability. Listen to it here

Disability done different

Father and daughter team Roland and Evie Naufal have candid conversations with people who’ve carved their own path in the disability sector. They want to challenge the traditional ways of doing things. Their podcast is full of relaxed conversations with fascinating people. It’s also peppered with some good-natured bickering between the co-hosts! Listen to it here

Reasonable and Necessary: Making Sense of the NDIS

Dr George Taleporos hosts this podcast which is all about navigating the NDIS. Dr George started podcasting in 2018 so there are lots of podcasts to catch up on. He looks at topics like what to do if you’re not happy with your NDIS plan, how to achieve great outcomes with the NDIS and how the NDIS can do better. Listen to it here.

One in Five

The Melbourne Disability Institute produces the One in Five podcast. They explore some of the complex issues facing people with a disability such as employment, housing, supporting families and the law. They speak to a range of experts who work in the space and many people with a disability. With one in five people living with a disability, they aim to talk about ways everyone can improve the lives of people with a disability. Listen to it here

Australasian Society for Intellectual Disability Podcast: Research to practice

Australasian’s peak body in intellectual disability were early to the podcast phase, creating their first one in 2016. They aim to promote research to inform and influence good practise and policy for people with intellectual disabilities. In their podcast episodes, they speak to researchers about topics as diverse as living in group homes, LBGTQIA+ adults who have intellectual disabilities, political citizenship, good health and more. Listen to it here.

Do you have any other podcast recommendations?

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels