Supporting a Change of Pace
When he retired at age 60, after 20 years of working at Unisson’s supported employment business, Pack Works, Damien faced one of life’s most challenging transitions. But with the right supports in place, he’s now embracing the change of pace.
Retirement is a complex rite of passage. The freedom to pursue new interests, fulfil dreams or just relax and enjoy life can be exciting, but it also means adjusting to the loss of established routines, connections with colleagues and a sense of purpose and identity.
A gradual transition to retirement is preferable, but sometimes ‘life happens’ and this isn’t possible. This was, unfortunately, the case for Ryde-based Damien Egan. In just 18 months, Damien experienced the distressing loss of both his parents, spent time in hospital after a fall, moved house and gained a new support team. And during this whirlwind of events, he decided it was also time to retire. As Damien’s retirement came about quite suddenly, the Support Coordination funding in his NDIS plan was insufficient to meet his transition to retirement needs.
Support Coordination is designed to help eligible people to access a mix of supports in their NDIS plan, get the best out of their funding and increase their capacity to live the life they choose. Eligibility includes major life transitions such as retirement, leaving school and moving home or events such as loss of a primary carer, a first NDIS plan, a period of crisis or a change of circumstances that reduces someone’s capacity to manage their plan.
When Damien retired, Unisson Support Coordinator Ros Richardson applied for additional funding and got to work researching and requesting the supports that would enable him to thrive during this next chapter of his life.
Working closely with Damien, his family and Unisson Team Leader, Gunta Jarjoura, Ros worked with Damien’s interests, and Gunta implemented his program, using a Person-centred Active Support approach. By collaborating with Damien’s sisters Margot and Liz and his brother Michael, who are strong advocates for Damien, Ros and Gunta learned about Damien’s childhood experiences to improve the quality of his program and supports. And as he is selectively non-verbal with people he doesn’t have a strong connection with, this information was also used to match Damien with support staff who share his interests.
“Gunta has done an awesome job sorting everything out and Ros has been amazing,” says Margot. “For people who have family members transitioning, it’s imperative to have a Support Coordinator who knows exactly what they can access.."
With the right supports available, Damien transitioned to his new lifestyle at his own pace. He now enjoys a range of activities that are meaningful because they relate to happy experiences from his childhood, growing up in an artistic, musical family. They range from simple pleasures, such as having breakfast and afternoon tea in the garden while receiving assistance to read the newspaper and talking with his support staff, to interests such as art classes and going to the theatre, and fulfilling dreams such as going on holiday.
“Gunta has done an awesome job sorting everything out and Ros has been amazing,” says Margot “For people who have family members transitioning, it’s imperative to have a Support Coordinator who knows exactly what they can access because there’s a lot of things available that the average person doesn’t know about that can add so much value to someone’s life.”