Imagine for a minute...
It’s late on a Tuesday night .You’ve finished dinner and your wife, who is 10 weeks pregnant with your fourth child, has just gone to bed. There’s a knock at the front door.
It’s the police.
Your teenage son has had a terrible accident. He was hit by a train and his life is hanging by a thread.
How do you tell your wife? You know how distraught she will be. You have to physically hold her down while you tell her the news. The response is hysteria and you are worried that you could lose two children in one night.
You get to the hospital. Your 16 year old boy lies lifelessly. You think, “this can’t be happening to us, to our family.”
Weeks go by, and things don’t get any better. Your son is being kept alive by a machine. You think, “even if he did wake up, what sort of life would he have?” You and your family make the heartbreaking decision to turn the ventilator off.
You can’t bear to watch him die, so you say your goodbyes, leave the hospital and go home to mourn the loss of your beloved little boy.
A few hours pass by and the phone rings. It’s the doctor from the hospital. Your son has taken a breath without assistance. You think, “it’s a bloody miracle” and things will now be OK; but how wrong you are.
This was reality for Bernie Crocker 20 years ago. This is reality now:
“It’s 20 years since Anthony’s accident and he is now 36. He has a brain injury causing mental disabilities. He has physical disabilities making it difficult to move around. And he needs 24/7 supervision and care.
To top this off his only recourse is to live in aged care.
As my wife and I discovered, there is no guidebook to direct you to the right channels when something catastrophic happens to you or a loved one.
It is sad to think that the only help you get is what you are able to discover yourself, or from other people that are in the same situation.
We also discovered that the options for care and accommodation for young people with high care needs are incredibly limited.
Chris and I have tried all the options. Anthony has lived in various hospitals, been cared for at home, in government housing projects and now lives in aged care as there is nowhere else for him to go.
Anthony’s current “room mates” are mostly between 70 and 90 years old, and many suffer from dementia. Their rooms afford limited privacy as each section is divided by nothing more than a thin curtain.
His clothes are taken away and washed by the nursing staff. There are restrictions in their daily routines, such as what time they eat breakfast. And Anthony has also seen some of his room mates pass away in the last 18 months.
While we recognise that aged care isn’t the ideal environment for Anthony to live in, the truth is that there are no other options for us. Anthony is mentally ageing prematurely and acts like a much older man now, robbing him of his youth.
Anthony’s daily care needs are being catered for in the aged care facility but everything that represents being young is absent there. The activities, the smells, the interaction with young people, connection with the community, music... I strongly believe that complacency and inactivity breeds complacency and inactivity.
My son’s health is deteriorating. He has the use of one arm and leg, with no use of his other arm and very limited use of his other leg. He is blind in one eye and partially blind in the other, he is slowing down, seeming constantly tired, and now is almost incontinent.
In an ideal world, Chris and I would like to see our son living with other young people, in an environment conducive to table sports, such as board games and cards, trips to the movies and activities to keep Anthony active."
With the Youngcare Apartments Gold Coast currently under construction, and plans for Sydney accommodation underway, Youngcare is continuing its work to provide choice for young people like Anthony. Because every young person deserves a young life, regardless of their care needs.
Anthony (far right) with his family at his sister's wedding.