“We’ve had such improvements in our health”: How an 8-week program has enabled Michelle and Michael to stay home
They say it’s the small things that count and that couldn’t be truer for Michelle and Michael Billings.
Through Short Term Restorative Care, they’ve both learnt tips and tricks to improve their mobility and attend to daily tasks that used to be too challenging for them – and all in just eight short weeks.
“Balance has been a major problem for me as well as constant, severe pain,” says 76-year-old Michelle. “And I have to be able to look after my husband, Michael, who lives with a disability.
“If I wasn’t fit enough to look after him, then I don’t know what would happen. We both want to stay at home together.”
Getting the help they needed
The Billings’ journey started with a visit from their local Aged Care Assessment Service.
“I needed help with some things in the house and the aged care team organised for a lady to come for one hour a week to do my heavy shopping and one hour the next week to change the beds,” says Michelle. “The aged care team then followed up with us and said, ‘You obviously have some issues there that we can help with.’”
Michelle soon received a call from the Feros Care team offering her an appointment with Wellbeing Manager Pam Hegarty.
“Pam came into our lives like a little dynamo,” says Michelle. “She was so much fun, so knowledgeable and so friendly and professional. She’s a brilliant woman and she follows everything up. If she says she’s going to do something, she does it right now, not next Tuesday. She’s really made an amazing difference in my husband’s and my lives.”
Pam started by evaluating Michelle and Michael’s health, mobility and challenges. After asking them what they would like to achieve and setting goals with them, she devised and set up a tailored eight-week Short-Term Restorative Care (STRC) program.
Short-term Restorative Care (STRC) is designed to help individuals recover from injury or illness, getting them moving and retaining their independence. It’s a free service funded by My Aged Care.
“I worked with a lovely physiotherapist, Jan, who introduced me to a TENS machine,” says Michelle. “I couldn’t believe the [pain] relief that gave me along with the heat packs that were specific to the areas where I was suffering. I also worked with a physiologist named Josh who was a darling man and helped me so much to improve my balance and learn how to help myself. I’ve been enormously relieved.”
Going the extra mile
For Michelle, it really was the little things that made such a huge difference.
“I also worked with Rosemary, an occupational therapist, who was fabulous,” explains Michelle. “She organised a lift chair because I was having trouble getting up and down, and then she asked, ‘Is there anything else that’s a problem for you?’
“I told her I was having trouble lifting a saucepan full of potatoes to the back of the stove and getting heavy trays out of the oven, but I knew that couldn’t be fixed.
“I couldn’t believe it when she said, ‘Have you ever thought of putting the saucepan of potatoes on the stove and then taking the jug of water and pouring it in?’ It was so simple and made so much sense.
“Then she organised a trolley for me that I roll between the oven and the bench so I don’t have to carry heavy pots. They were such simple things that had never occurred to me.”
Michelle is also amazed at how much progress Michael, who is 80, has made through STRC.
“They’ve made an enormous amount of difference to him because he’s almost at the stage where he can’t get around anymore,” she explains. “But Jan and Josh, and the whole team, have increased his ability to manage things.”
Growing older and stronger
Given Michelle’s success with the first eight-week STRC program, the Feros Care team encouraged her to sign up for a second one.
“I did make a lot of improvements in the first eight weeks, but both Josh and Jan felt that I would benefit from another eight weeks to keep the improvement going and make it stronger,” she says.
“Pam actually retired yesterday, but I was the last person she signed up for the program. She went to so much trouble to make sure it was all set up before she finished so there were no problems with it. I can’t speak highly enough of her. She really is a wonderful woman.”
The Billings are also deeply grateful to both the Government and the Feros Care team.
“Everybody we’ve spoken to has been so helpful,” says Michelle. “We feel our jaws dropping when they say, ‘We can fix that.’ Nothing is too much trouble and no questions are too silly.
“They say, ‘It doesn’t matter if it sounds silly to you, it makes sense to us.’ My husband and I are both astonished at all the help we’ve received.”