Getting her family back together has been a long journey for Deb. When her youngest son, Paul, was two years old she became a widow while living in North Queensland.
Left with three boys aged 7, 5 and 2, one of which who had severe disabilities, Deb struggled as the only parent providing care and also looking after her other two sons on her own. It was then that she made the difficult decision to move herself and her sons down to Brisbane to be closer to her family.
Her plan was to get the oldest boys settled in school and then move Paul down to be with the rest of the family. Unfortunately, back then there was no NDIS and limited support for young people with disabilities. Without any service provisions or an appropriate place for Paul to call home in Brisbane he had to remain in Townsville. His Mum commuted between Brisbane and Townsville for 31 years.
Naturally during this time, with thousands of kilometers between them, the family became splintered. Paul’s brothers saw him at most three times a year on holidays, while Deb took every flight she could to be with her son. His paternal grandparents visited him often but it was not the same as being part of the wider family unit.
Paul spent 14 years in a nursing home for children at North Ward, and then as these facilities were phased out, he was moved into a four-bedroom share house where he lived for 19 years.
“I was apprehensive about him being moved into a share house because I was nervous, but it was much better. It’s interesting, they end up forming a strong bond in the house” – Deb, Paul’s Mum.
18 months ago, thanks to support provided by the NDIS, Paul was finally able to move to Brisbane. However, while Deb was grateful to finally have her son in Brisbane and be able to visit him more often, where he moved to was a different model to a share house. This was just not right for him.
As someone with complex and 24-hour care needs, Paul needs around the clock personalized care. Without this, he can easily be lost in the system. He is totally non-verbal and therefore cannot speak up and ask for help, or alert staff to an issue when he needs to. This is very dangerous for someone like Paul, and Debbie started to question whether she had made the right decision.
“It’s been a long journey, there’s been a lot of guilt because I thought I never should have moved him. It is better, for me, but it wasn’t better for Paul because he wasn’t getting the care that he was getting in a smaller house.” – Debbie
When Paul was offered a place in the Wooloowin 2 Share House, Debbie, Paul and his family were over the moon. Paul’s Mum and siblings live very close to his new home, and he will be sharing with two other young men. Debbie is confident that the three men will form a brotherhood in their new home, where they will be close to the city, parks and other activities that they can all enjoy, either together or separately.
“As a Mum, you always want the right thing for your child and he’s still my child, even though he’s 37. I just know that the share house is the right format for Paul to be living in. It’s like a home environment, even though we’re not there as his parents, to me it’s still a family environment.” – Debbie
Debbie is so excited to have her boys back together again. For the first time in 34 years they were able to celebrate Christmas together and are looking forward to be able to celebrate all of their exciting family moments together – some even taking place in Paul’s new home at Wooloowin!
“It was just wonderful for our whole family. Before, he was just a photo to my grandchildren because he had never been part of their lives, whereas now he is Uncle Paul. We are so excited to celebrate every Christmas, and every family event together now that he is just down the road!”