Austin Street, VMCH’s permanent residence for young people with a significant acquired brain injury (ABI), celebrated its sixth birthday in August.
Opened on the 18th August 2010, the purpose-built home, developed under the government’s ‘My future my choice’ initiative represented a new era; a new model of support that blended nursing care with rehabilitation and community inclusion. It is the only home of its kind in Victoria and was the first of only two such residences in the nation.
While this makes Austin Street all the more amazing, it is also a sobering statistic as it means thousands of young Australians are still living in aged care homes as there are no other options open to them. ABI units exist in several metropolitan hospitals but they do not provide long term support.
Austin Street in Alphington is specifically designed to be an enriched, warm and dynamic environment where the residents are encouraged to make their own life choices and remain connected to family, friends and the community.
“We encourage their independence and we ask all the residents what their personal dreams and goals are,” says Austin Street Manager Jo Herbert.
“It’s part of our philosophy to work with our residents, not for them, and to empower them to pursue their dreams and independence. It doesn’t matter if the dream seems unobtainable – we encourage them in that direction.”
A high staff to resident ratio means that Austin Street residents receive intensive support aligned to their specific health, rehabilitation and personal care needs and preferences. A team of physiotherapists and allied health professionals visit residents who have ‘slow to recover’ funding ensuring they receive expert care to sustain and improve their health and wellbeing. If the resident does have this type of funding, they receive support from a Rehabilitation and Therapy Assistant. 24 hour nursing support at Austin Street also means residents receive clinical support and can avoid periods of hospitalisation.
Of the ten current residents at Austin Street, eight have been there since the house opened six years ago. It’s a reflection of how successful this model of support is, but it does not mean that some residents are not making cognitive and physical gains.
“Many residents have made real progress,” Jo says. “Gains for people with an acquired brain injury can take a long time, but the changes can be significant.”
Louise Reed is one such resident. Following a stroke in her late 40s, Louise moved into Austin Street in 2013.
“It was hard for me at first, but I was relieved to be out of hospital,” says Louise. “I have achieved a lot since coming here and appreciate that they treat us like real people and encourage us to be independent.
“We go out a lot and we do rehabilitation. Recently, I have practised standing again and I can now sit up by myself … I go up to the local primary school once a week, where the students read their readers to me and it keeps me in touch with my teacher’s aide training. I have learnt that being in a wheelchair doesn’t stop you from doing what you want to do.”