Hope for older disability carers

Two charities, one an aged care provider and the other in disability support services, have joined forces to build a new facility which combines the two.

Above: Bryan Lipmann, CEO of Wintringham, with Allen Kong, the architect who designed the Eunice Seddon hostel.

By Stephen Easton

A unique facility offering accommodation for disadvantaged older people and people with a disability on the same site – the first of its kind – was officially opened in Melbourne last week by the Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Mark Butler.

The Eunice Seddon Hostel opened its doors a year ago in the South East Melbourne suburb of Dandenong after Wintringham, which provides aged care for impoverished older people, joined forces with disability support organisation Wallara to build the combined complex.

The jointly owned facility is the first in Australia to provide aged care accommodation where elderly people can live alongside their disabled children, when it becomes hard for them to keep up their role as a long-term primary carer.  

Wintringham’s acting CEO, Michael Deschepper, said the idea had grown out of discussions between the two organisations last year, in the process of Wallara selling part of its land to Wintringham to finance their rebuild.  

“The reality is that first and foremost, we’re an aged care provider, and our brief is [caring for] elderly homeless people and those at risk of homelessness, so the Eunice Seddon Hostel is primarily for that,” Mr Deschepper said.

And for that purpose things are going well, according to one resident, Flowers Brown.

“I love it – the place is absolutely outstanding and the best thing is the people,” Mr Brown said. “It isnt just the architecture, it’s the people themselves that really make this place, they really do.

“They make you feel like you’re really at home, and there’s not a bad one in the bunch I’ve got to tell you.”

Wintringham’s original plan was to build a new 60-bed facility in the area, but the idea of providing both services in one complex was developed during discussions over the land sale.

“We own the aged care part of the site and Wallara own their bit; the trick is we engaged one architect to make a master plan for the whole site, and the same builder to do all of the construction,” Mr Deschepper explained.

“We didn’t go to Dandenong with this brief. In a way, we have stumbled across this ourselves, and we wonder why it hasn’t been done before.

“This is a huge unrecognised issue; I think it has existed for a long time and it’s just been hidden.”

So far, the Eunice Seddon Hostel has one resident who has been spared a heartbreaking separation from her 40-year-old daughter, who has Down’s Syndrome.

But such situations are difficult to organise and currently, somewhat unlikely to be repeated on a large scale, with admission into the two conjoined facilities governed by very different systems of rules and regulations.

Aged care is run according to federal legislation while disability support services are provided by state governments – in Victoria, through the Department of Human Services – and often have long waiting lists.

Due to the publicity surrounding its opening ceremony, the Dandenong hostel has received “lots of calls” from older parents with disabled children, who would like to be able to live in such arrangements. But for most, all the faciltiy can do is give them hope that others like it might exist one day.

Speaking on an ABC radio program last week, Wintringham CEO Bryan Lipmann clarified that the facility was primarily for elderly homeless people and “not a service designed to solve this problem”, although the organisation would “try to do it at the same time”.

The Minster for Mental Health and Ageing, Mark Butler, said on the same program he was aware that a clear demand for conjoined facilities, like that built by Wallara and Wintringham, had existed for some time.

“Time and time again, people in forums have said to me that they want to see aged care facilities developed where they can move as their care needs increase, as they become more frail, but where also their adult children with disabilities can move as well, to be with them,” Minister Butler said.

“ …so having a look at a service like this which is, frankly, very innovative, is very useful for me as we start to think about developing our response to the Productivity Commission’s report on aged care.” 

Tags: disadvantaged-older-adults, homeless, homelessness, wintringham,

4 thoughts on “Hope for older disability carers

  1. This project appears to be a return to institutional living for people with disabilities. What network of friends and support will the sons and daughters have when their parents pass away? Of course it gives some comfort to the parents to have their family member with a disability with them, but long term benefits for the person with the disability may not be so great.

  2. I was pleased to read about this project, there is no reason why people with disabilities cannot continue to be involved in their community and maintain networks while residing at the hostel. Bryan Lipmann is a visionary man who has been involved in many innovative and supportive housing solutions, well done!!

  3. As a mother with a disabled child, this is what I have prayed to start happening for many years, for when I pass on I want my child to be settled in his home with peers and other parents to support and keep an eye on him. As for the Richmond Report, has the above professor who obviously has never had the fear of having a child who cannot care for themself, understand how many vulnable people are now living without adequate care, not taking needed medication, being abused. The Government needs to be more answerable again for the care of our aging and disabled

  4. Professor Emeritus, perhaps you would like to take a look at this great facility where people with disabilities are able to live in their own unit and still have the support they need for day to day living, with their care needs met, while their elderly parent has the opportunity of being close by. Dandenong is an interesting, vibrant, multi-cultural city where most people do look after each other. I would hardly class this new facility in Potter Street Dandenong as institutional living. Please come and see for yourself, you will be make most welcome.

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