31 August 2020

Helen is living her best life during lockdown, with your help

| Genevieve Jacobs
Helen washing vehicle at car wash.

Helen at a local car wash, participating in an active life. Photo: Supplied.

This year has been difficult for everyone, but for Hartley Lifecare client Helen, adaptation to the challenges of COVID-19 has also meant blossoming and growing through support, encouragement and lots of goodwill.

Hartley Lifecare is a Canberra-based not-for-profit organisation that provides supported accommodation for people with disability, and their families and carers. They’re part of Hands Across Canberra’s Recovery Appeal, which aims to help the 97 per cent of local charities and community organisations that have been hit hard by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their services and fundraising.

Helen lives with a disability but receives support from her family, Hartley and Rebecca from Sharing Places, who works with her on developing personal growth through a diverse range of programs.

READ ALSO Canberra Recovery Appeal meets urgent need as 97% of charities are hit by COVID-19

Hartley has responded to COVID-19 by pivoting towards activities and events that are still accessible for clients.

In Helen’s case, this means long walks and many outside excursions to improve posture and flexibility. There has been yoga and stretching exercises, aided by the smart TV in her lounge room where she can watch YouTube classes.

“Everyone says it’s been a joy to see Helen out enjoying games and exercises in her backyard,” says Hartley’s Corey Ryan. “You can often find her marching, bowling and touching her toes, all amid much laughter all round.

“We dare anyone to try not smile when they see the happiness on Helen’s face while doing these activities.”

Television has also been useful in maintaining community connections, including YouTube church services which enable Helen to spot old friends and family members.

Helen exercising on lounge room floor.

Helen’s floor exercises have helped her stay fit during COVID-19. Photo: Supplied.

At home, Helen helps to clean around the house, hang out washing, wipe down tables and prepare her lunch.

The COVID-19 pandemic has required Hartley’s staff to be flexible and adapt quickly. Everyone has actively ensured Helen and other residents haven’t suffered during the absence of day programs, including organising things such as a home haircut for her when it wasn’t possible to get to a salon.

Corey says the amount of adaptation Hartley has been through as a result of COVID-19 would have been unimaginable at the beginning of the year.

“Life has been turned upside down for so many people since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he says. “Lockdowns, travel restrictions and significant changes to daily life and community activities have certainly tested the mental strength of many people. Members of the Hartley family are no exception.”

Hartley has borne the brunt of cancelled fundraising events that not only support the community, but also offer clients the chance to catch up and socialise. Money raised from these events goes towards investments for Hartley clients beyond what the government funds.

Responding proactively has meant clients have been able to adjust. Helen’s mum, Annette, says she can see how well the adaptation strategy is working.

“I am thrilled to be able to see the delight on Helen’s face during these COVID-19 times,” says Annette. “She is doing so much more with her life now. Staff have been crucial in maintaining and developing her skills.

“She is having the time of her life both at home and in the community, when she gets the chance. She is leading her best life and this is of enormous comfort to me.”

However, more time at home means more required support and entertainment, says Corey.

“With fundraising events cancelled, now more than ever Hartley values support from the Canberra community to overcome these challenging times and make sure there are more good news stories like Helen’s,” he says.

“With the encouragement of a great team of Hartley staff, the support of her mum, and the integration into her life, Helen has blossomed while adapting to the challenges presented by COVID-19.”

The Canberra Recovery Appeal is close to achieving its overall goal of $400,000 in support of the local charities and community organisations which have found themselves in desperate need.

Every dollar donated will be matched, and Hands Across Canberra is urging everyone to donate today.

Original Article published by Genevieve Jacobs on The RiotACT.

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