My lifelong journey of reablement – by “Starkey”, an Aspire4Life client and reablement advocate

Starkey, a client of Aspire4Life aged care service provider, participating in a reablement program by using exercise equipment in a gym

During breakfast recently, I realised that for most of my 74 years, I’ve been living a journey of reablement. In fact, I was living reablement before it became the preferred option for aged and disability care. 

I’ve lived through personal and professional challenges, having to change direction and move forward. This includes relationship issues, recovery from a major motor vehicle accident, months on life support, and an extremely long physical and emotional rehabilitation journey. During this time, I had to relearn skills, like reading, writing, and mobility. I also took up studying and gaining qualifications, even when many around me, including care team workers, cautioned me to not “over reach” or “expect too much”. These words, meant in support, could have limited my want to regain full independence and my drive to work in the community for better outcomes. 

Starkey, a client of Aspire4Life aged care service provider, sitting on a bench in a gallery or museum holding a cane.

In my professional career, I was in general nursing, became an operating theatre scrub nurse, moved into the funeral industry, then became a trainer and educator in community care (as a volunteer). For over 25 years, I worked in care coordination, supporting people living with HIV, mental ill health, drug dependency, homelessness, and often, premature ageing due to co-morbidities. 

From the motor vehicle accident, I had residual lower body damage. With ageing, this caused pain and impaired mobility. Realising I needed to maintain mobility and alleviate pain, I began a program of exercise and health maintenance. This involved regular gym workouts and weekly sessions with osteopaths and exercise physiologists. Yet, I lived with increasing discomfort, lower back pain, uneven hips, and injuries to my right leg causing external rotation. My left hip also ground itself down over time. 

I continued working until I was 69, then retired and moved overseas, returning at 71. The pain and mobility impairment only increased, making me realise that a total hip replacement was necessary. To maintain as much mobility as possible, I reengaged with exercise physiologists and other medical professionals. 

Once on the list for hip replacement, I knew I’d need assistance post-procedure, and possibly before. So, I went through My Aged Care for assessment. The assessor from Aspire4Life worked out an appropriate care plan which placed me in control, aiming for my goal of independent living, community engagement, and good physical and mental health. I live alone in high set premises, and I knew I would face challenges and need a higher level of care after the operation. 

Then, Covid-19 hit. It halted all surgeries, gyms closed, and I couldn’t see exercise physiologists. My exercise changed to walking the neighbourhood with a cane. I hated it.  Thankfully, I got my hip replacement when elective surgeries resumed.  

Upon discharge, I got assessed for increased support at home, including personal care equipment, supervision with my care routine and meal prep assistance. Two weeks post discharge, I was back with my Exercise Physiologist and hitting the gym three times a week. Now, I’m pleased to say I continue to sit on Advisory Panels for ageing, volunteer with two organisations and attend gym 5 times a week.  

Starkey, a client of Aspire4Life aged care service provider, sitting on a weight machine in a gym. 

I truly hope reablement remains paramount in aged assessments and ongoing care. It’s vital to work WITH clients, assessing their capabilities, assisting them to set their goals, and reviewing and adjusting care to the individual’s needs.  It’s not a one size fits all approach.  I want to say a big thank to Aspire4Life for having compassionate staff who truly listen and work with clients towards their goals. 

“Starkey” – Aspire4Life Client and Reablement Advocate.