Pick up your respite and take it on holiday!
Everyone needs a break from the everyday routine of living with a spinal injury. That is as true for the injured person as it is for their loved ones.
The therapeutic term for such a break is respite. And the concept of respite, traditionally, has been fairly narrow.
Typically, when someone with a spinal injury thinks about respite, they think of booking themselves into a nursing home or a hospital, so that the pressure of caring is taken off their support team. Too often, the prospect of entering institutional care is grim enough that respite is resisted for as long as possible – perhaps booked only when relationships reach a tipping point.
Some people look at respite differently, however. And reap benefits from a more creative approach. Perhaps the key to making such a break more alluring is to rethink the venue. No law says your options end with a hospital.
“The opportunity for respite has always been on the table from all funding bodies, but we tend to look at it in the traditional old way,” says Peter Van Benthem, Peer Support Coordinator with AQA/Spire. “We should start looking at it in a fresher way.
“Let’s pick up that respite and take it on holiday. And let’s build it into a yearly plan. So that everyone can look forward to some relief now and then from the everyday.
“Head away to somewhere warmer. Somewhere more scenic. Somewhere more stimulating and fun. Or just somewhere different.
“You can find short-term or medium-term accommodation for someone with an SCI at many interesting places in Australia. Maybe a long way from where you live, or maybe almost next door.”
Information is readily available within the SCI community on hotels and guest houses that are comfortable for someone who relies on a wheelchair, Mr Van Benthem says.
And money to employ carers at your destination is usually available from your funding body, whether it is the TAC, Workcover, the DHS, or even the NDIS – especially if you build it into your annual plan.
“One example would be Norton House at Harrietville, not far from Bright in the alpine region of northern Victoria,” Mr Van Benthem says. “It is operated by the Able Management Group, and offers shared accommodation that is designed to be more comfortable for people with a disability.
“It is on a beautiful property that has a real country feeling, with the Ovens River running at its rear. It can be so relaxing even just sitting under the trees by the river, where you can see the trout swimming by.”
You can take respite like this on your own, or with a friend or a partner, Mr Van Benthem points out. Or you can take your whole family.
“A friend stayed on Phillip Island with Ripples n Tonic, whose founders Diane and Michael set up their accommodation to be as accessible as they could make it. He said it was a great farm-style getaway for him and his family, and the kids had a great time. Phillip Island has many things to do and see that have wheelchair access.
“If you lean towards something more luxurious, there is even a beachfront resort in the Sydney suburb of Collaroy, north of Manly, built exclusively for people with spinal injuries. People from all over the country have taken a break at the Sargood on Collaroy since it was built just last year for the Sargood Foundation. They even get guests from overseas.
“One of the best things about respite of this kind is that the injured person comes back refreshed too,” Mr Van Benthem says. “That helps the good effects of the respite last longer for everyone.”