Thirteen-year-old James is a ray of sunshine to everyone who meets meet him. Affectionate, cheeky and strong-willed, he embraces everything life has to offer – even though he is living with a disability and requires help with everyday tasks.
James’ parents have always been the sole providers of their son’s special needs, but it’s a balancing act that can be stressful, especially alongside paid work, raising James’ younger brothers and the general busyness of life.
Although James’ mum, Michelle, said she and her husband were initially apprehensive about hiring someone outside of the family to provide care, they decided they needed help. So two years ago, she got in touch with Home Caring Newcastle: a highly experienced team of passionate support workers and health professionals. And according to Michelle, they haven’t looked back since.
Support with heart
Today, James is supported six days a week by a diverse team of four support workers, both in the mornings and afternoons.
Alongside supporting James with daily tasks like preparing breakfast, getting ready for school and being part of the family routine, they do enjoyable activities together such as going for walks in the local area where James bumps into friends; train rides; exploring the local reserve; feeding pigeons at the park; visiting animals at a farm or taking trips to the beach.
“Each of the carers has developed their own special connection with James. He looks forward to their visits, and gets excited when he knows they’re coming,” said Michelle.
James’ support workers have also developed different ways of communicating with James, who is non-verbal – often in creative ways. One of his support workers, Meg, has encouraged James to use simple words, or communicate using taps on the table, music and popping balloons (which James loves!).
“He’s starting to use more words with me, say my name, communicate things like when he wants more breakfast. I’m starting to understand what he’s saying,” said Meg. “I love being with James, he’s such a happy kid. He loves listening to music, watching movies, dancing, so we dance a lot and have fun. It’s great to see the growth in him.”
Unique care that makes a difference
Supporting James isn’t just about having fun during the week; it’s also an opportunity to help James meet his goals and enjoy family life. Michelle said an upside of receiving support at home is that James can now spend more quality time with his extended family – particularly his grandparents, as his carers are on hand to provide support and give them confidence.
Another benefit is seeing James progress in his ability to socialise and communicate with people around him. “It’s actually given him more responsibility, in a good way,” said Michelle. “He’s learning to be communicate what he wants better. He’s been able to learn other ways of communicating, and develop his own style of communication, which has been great for him.”
Having home support has also made a big difference to the whole family. Family life is hectic sometimes, so having an extra pair of experienced hands can be a huge help.
“Having people help us takes away some of the pressure and stress,” said Michelle. “We can then do other activities with our other children, like attend their sports games. It’s reduced a whole lot of headaches because we’ve built that trust.”
“Now that we have support for James, I would highly recommend it to other people in our situation, to get some balance,” she added. “We see the difference in little things, like being able to do different things, have a snooze occasionally or do the shopping without having to rush. And of course, to see James doing well and enjoying life is the best.”